Guan Eng's stance on Penang ferry issue not same as his sister, says Dr Wee

GEORGE TOWN: Former chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement is not in line with his sister’s remarks in Dewan Negara, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).

The Transport Minister thanked Lim’s sister, Senator Lim Hui Ying, for agreeing with the Transport and Finance ministries and stated that replacing the decades-old ferries was “a modernisation that could not be avoided” on Dec 17.

Hui Ying, in Dewan Negara, had called for the upgrade to be expedited and felt that a one-year time frame would be too long.

However, Dr Wee expressed his confusion on Guan Eng’s anger in regards to the Penang ferries services issue.

“Hui Ying has clearly mentioned her stance. I don't even understand why her brother is angry with me blindly.

“She didn't even argue with the decision to replace the existing ferry with fast boat ferries and vehicle transporters to carry two-wheeler vehicles,” he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Dec 30).

Dr Wee said the same as what was requested by Hui Ying, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and himself have asked Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to speed up the process of acquiring the new ferries.

“According to PPSB, the decision for Prasarana to submit ferry service to PPSB was finalised on Sept 1, 2020, and is currently awaiting allocation to be distributed from the Finance Ministry to PPSB through the Transport Ministry.

“It is true that Guan Eng, the former finance minister, had once decided to pass the allocation of RM30mil and promised it to be paid in two years which is RM15mil in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

“But, this promise is just in the form of a letter of approval and there was no direct allocation provided in Budget 2020.

“When I became Transport Minister on March 10, 2020, I worked hard to get allocation from the Finance Ministry as promised by Guan Eng and I was informed that no allocation was provided for that purpose,” he said.

Dr Wee added that before Budget 2021 was tabled, he led the Transport Ministry to have a discussion with the current Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.

“Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul had finally agreed to distribute the allocation of RM30mil in two phases which is RM15mil in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

“When the Transport Minister gets financial commitment from the Finance Ministry after Budget 2021 was tabled, I ordered PPSB to immediately book the water buses and vehicle transporters accordingly,” he said.

Dr Wee explained that the shipmaker company needs 18 months to complete all the vessels.

“However, PPSB will use any ship which is completed earlier and replace them in phases.

“I understand Hui Ying's recommendation to shorten the transition period but PPSB has done its best to speed up the new ferries replacement process.

“I agree with Hui Ying's view that the old ferry that is still used now is not suitable as a mode of public transport when its maintenance costs are too high and is causing a lot of difficulties.

“I hope Guan Eng understands Hui Ying’s remarks.

“Hui Ying has also recommended that old ferries be refurbished as tourist cruises and tourist attractions.

“I agree with her proposal and I welcome either PPSB, Penang Port Commission, Penang government to make the old ferries a tourist cruise, museum or floating restaurant to attract tourists and preserve heritage values,” he added.

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