DAP lawmaker breaks ranks to support motion on land reclaimation

GEORGE TOWN: Maverick Penang DAP lawmaker Teh Yee Cheu (Tanjung Bungah – DAP) shocked the house when he broke ranks with the party to support a Barisan Nasional (BN) motion on land reclamation at the state legislative assembly on Friday night.

He voted "yes" during the vote taking for the motion moved by Farid Saad (Pulau Betong – BN) to halt all new projects involving land reclamation until detailed environment, oceanic and social studies were done and to have open hearings for all such projects.

The motion was nonetheless defeated after all Exco members and DAP assemblyman voted against it with 23 "nays" against 10 "ayes" from BN lawmakers and Teh.

Causing a stir during the vote taking was PKR assemblymen who abstained from voting with party whip Ong Ching Wen (Bukit Tengah – PKR) leading the way while his colleagues, Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga – PKR), Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubok – PKR), Dr T. Jayabalan (Batu Uban – PKR) and Norlela Arifin (Penanti – PKR) followed suit.

During the debate earlier, Teh urged the state to remove Middle Bank, where a patch of raw seagrass grows, as a gazetted area suitable for reclamation.

He said the area, which he noted was home and a breeding ground to various aquatic wildlife, should instead be gazetted as a marine preservation area.

"I support the motion," he said while BN assemblymen thumped their desks in support of his stand.

The assembly also heard SRS Consortium was chosen as the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) for the RM27billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) as their proposal was not only a transport solution.

Local Government, Flood Management and Traffic Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the financial mechanism proposed allowed the state to make use of reclaimed land for future development activities up to 2050.

He said the government must consider the issues of expanding the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ) where there was no more industrial land left and expanding the Penang International Airport (PIA).

He also said Malaysia had a legal framework for land reclamation activities, pointing to the need for a Detailed Environment Impact Assessment (DEIA) and approval from the National Physical Planning Council chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

"Land reclamation is not new in Penang, such activities were also done in the time of Captain Francis Light for Lebuh Pantai (and) from Weld Quay to Batu Maung," he said in his debate.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng meanwhile alleged the BN motion was moved with political intentions and pointed out the previous BN state government had approved numerous land reclamation projects.

He pointed to the Middle Bank which was listed as a reclaimable area at the sea by the then BN administration.

"You are the culprit but you want to be the hero?," he asked angrily while pointing out Farid and Datuk Roslan Saidin (Pinang Tunggal – BN) were government backbenchers then while State Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar – BN) was an Exco at that time.

Also taking part was Nordin Ahmad (Bayan Lepas – BN) who urged the state to consider the plight of fishermen affected reclamation and Yap Soo Huey (Pulau Tikus – DAP) who called upon the state to be meticulous when approving such projects and Wong Hon Wai (Air Itam – DAP) pointed out Malaysia already laws to regulate such activities.

Teh when met later said he voted according to his conscience and for the benefit and the interest of the public.

"All this while I have been very clear on my stand regarding environmental issues," he said adding the party was free to take disciplinary action.

When approached, Ong, who is the PKR whip, said PRK assemblymen voted according to their conscience but dismissed the suggestion the non-support was evident of cracks in Pakatan Harapan (PH).

In a press conference later, Teh however said he realised his mistake for supporting a BN motion after discussing with party leaders and apologised while expressing his commitment to the DAP struggle.

He said he understood there will be punishment for those who made mistakes and will accept any decision made Lim, who is DAP secretary general, and Chow, who is Penang DAP chairman.

"What is done is done," he said when asked if he would retract his support for the motion in a press conference attended by Lim, Chow and all DAP assemblymen in a Penang DAP meeting held immediately after Speaker Law Choo Kiang adjourned the proceedings sine dine.

Lim said he would let PKR have their meeting first and will handle the matter in the future when asked about PKR assemblymen abstaining from the vote.