Heartache in Island Glades

"WHY cut our trees?" (Letters, June 30) refers. The destruction of our beloved plants in the Island Glades Park by Penang Island City Council (MBPP) workers is a community issue. It was carried out in a high-handed fashion without any consideration, consultation or discussion with the stakeholders who had looked after these plants in a loving manner for more than 10 years.

We are puzzled with the explanation provided by the MBPP management services director, Mohamed Akbar Mustapha, on July 5 in the Metro section of another English daily's northern edition.

His contention that "the trees were removed on June 20 because their condition had become unmanageable, which raised public concern" is without merit.

We are hurt and offended by this statement. If he had visited the Island Glades Park and chatted with the residents who make use of this park, he would have seen that these plants were well-managed. Some caring and responsible residents had claimed ownership of these plants and had never neglected them.

The plants have been regularly pruned and trimmed, and they looked neat and proper.

How these plants could have "raised public concern", as claimed is baffling. All these plants have been planted along the perimeter of the field. They did not get in the way of the walkers; they did not interfere with those exercising on the field. They did not disturb in any way. They did not intrude or protrude into spaces where activities were carried on. They were tucked away neatly.

We reject his statement that "the trees were removed on June 20 because their condition had become unmanageable, which raised public concern". These plants did not cause any public concern because they were never unmanageable.

Some conscientious residents had faithfully maintained these plants for over 10 years by watering them voluntarily and caring for them. These are civic-minded residents who deserve to be applauded for their efforts.

When the workers came for the fourth time on June 21 to cut down more clusters of bamboo, the workers said that certain bamboo plants need not be cut down. They were right. In fact, they had previously pruned the bamboos and plants and spared them but were told to cut them down subsequently.

Even a hibiscus flowering plant was cut. Why? Isn't the hibiscus our national flower? In what way did this plant "raise public concern"? Did it give an appearance of being unmanageable?

The workers had come twice in May and another two times in June making a total of four visits to cut down the plants.

By removing the rare herbal and medicinal plants that were planted by an 83-year-old resident who cared for them single-handedly for so many years, the residents have been unfairly denied the traditional remedy that some had been depending on. These plants did not pose any public concern. Why cut them down?

And by cutting the bamboos and plants opposite Lorong Delima 3, next to the entrance leading to the field where senior citizens gather to sit and chat after their morning walk, the workers have removed the shade provided by these plants. Now these senior citizens are exposed to the direct sunlight and are unable to sit on the benches and relax as they used to do for many years.

His statement, "Bamboo plants are not encouraged as they require constant maintenance" would imply the MBPP had been maintaining these bamboo clusters and therefore speaking from experience. The bamboos have been maintained solely by a few caring residents and it was never a problem. We have had so many clusters of bamboos adding beauty to the park.

These are not the running bamboos but the clumping variety. Their root growth remains around the main stems and are easier to control. They also prevent soil erosion.

His contention that "The residents should have obtained the permission of the council to plant trees so that we could advise them on what type of trees were suitable" – does not make sense. These plants and trees have been around for nearly 10 years and more. The palm trees were planted from seeds.

If there were regular inspections of the park, the MBPP would have found out that these trees were planted without permission. At that point they could have removed the trees and there would have been no fuss. Why wasn't this done years ago?

All said and done, we would like to invite Mohamed to visit our park and have a dialogue. We can enlighten him how we had maintained the plants and bamboos for so many years and convince him that our plants were never, ever "unmanageable, which raised public concern".

He is welcome to drop by from Monday to Friday around 8.30am. We would be grateful if he could kindly inform us of his visit.

We are not against anyone – we are only against what was done to our beloved plants and bamboos.

Residents & Friends of Island Glades Park
(This letter carries 92 signatures)