Penang govt needs to address flawed policy on environment preservation: Penang Forum

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Forum wants all quarters to understand that its outburst against the state government was not just about the landslide in Tanjung Bungah but on a need to address a flawed policy on environment preservation.

The criticism was weighed similarly against the previous state government, and it is up to the politicians to digest it in a constructive manner, said the forum's leading advocate Dr Lim Mah Hui.

Penang Forum's clarion call has always been about safeguarding the environment, and on whether the tiny island has the capacity to sustain wanton development, said Lim in an interview.

The former economist and academician urged the state government to re-examine its policies on the environment to prevent more recurrences of disasters.

On another point, Lim said that the state could have waited on the outcome of the Court of Appeal from the Sungai Ara Residents' Association, which is challenging a hillslope project from progressing on grounds that it had exceeded the 76-metre limit.

The project there is apparently defined as a special status project.

Once the court verdict was known; then the state should review whether a proposed moratorium should be introduced for all hillslope projects, he said.

"I think they went ahead too early to discuss and settled that the moratorium was not needed because the present guidelines were adequate."

Lim also urged the state commission of inquiry into the landslide tragedy which killed 11 persons to be given a wider scope to review state policies on hillslope development.

Meanwhile, state executive councillor Chong Eng stated that a state leader must be able to see things from all perspectives.

"We cannot just see from one point of view. We need a whole picture to gauge what is best for Penang. And for the majority, development is needed as we need to progress," Chong Eng, who is a former civil society activist herself, said.

Penang Island City Council's Lord Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Shariff said it was within the council's agenda to seek a dialogue session with civil societies in Penang over environmental issues.

"It is just a question of making time to organise it. We are all for better interaction so both the critics and the local government can understand each other better."