Penang undersea tunnel project has become a scandal: PAP

GEORGE TOWN: The proposed RM6.3 billion cross-channel undersea tunnel has now become a mini-scandal here because the state government has chosen to remain vague on accusations of improprieties by the Opposition.

Due to the unconvincing clarifications, the undersea tunnel is a scandal in a sense that money has exchanged hands but there was no idea whether the transaction was done on the grounds of transparency, said the People's Alternative Party (PAP) vice-chairperson Rahmad Isahak.

It has some similarities but importantly and most worrying was that the figure of the dispute was in the millions and billions; not thousands, he said.

"The crux was simple – money was seemingly paid to the project delivery partner but there was nothing to show what the money was used on; was it for an uncompleted feasibility study or an Environment Impact Assessment?"

"The agreement was sealed in 2012 – but where is the progress report?" he asked.

Secondly, Rahmad was alarmed with a news report on Friday that kickbacks were paid to politicians over the project.

He said that it is shameful that it has to happen in Penang – a state whose inhabitants pride themselves with a critical and progressive mindset.

"Gerakan, who led Penang at one time, has been condemned but there were no claims of corruption linked to that party although they may have committed some mistakes of their own," said Rahmad in an interview.

He said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) also needs to shed more light on the case now since outlandish claims of corruption involving politicians have been made.

Politics aside, Rahmad said that he had analysed the news report as a concerned resident of Penang, and there was much ambiguity over it.

"We cannot allow political sentiments to get in the way of a project, especially if it concerns the future recourse of the people here. If corruption was involved, action must be taken," Rahmad said.

He also challenged the Pakatan leaders to clear the air about the controversies attached to the undersea tunnel instead of assuming an elegant silence mode.

Meanwhile, several Pakatan Harapan leaders, who preferred not to be named, have expressed concerns over sensational news reports, saying it was aimed to distract the people from the weaklings in the present Federal government.

But on the same token, there was indeed a certain level of pressure which Pakatan needs to address before the "war of perception" gets in the way of the Opposition's hope to offer a "Better Malaysia" to the voters.

"It can be damaging if the issue was not addressed well," said one Pakatan leader.

Voters are now more careful with their votes, especially over what has transpired since 2008 in Penang, another said.

Meanwhile, Penang Barisan Nasional (BN) has scheduled a series of press conferences to press on for answers regarding the tunnel which if completed; it becomes the fourth link between the island and mainland.

The tunnel connects Bagan Ajam in Butterworth with Gurney Drive on the island, while the Penang Bridge connects Seberang Jaya with Gelugor while the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge links Bayan Lepas with Batu Kawan.

The other connection is between Butterworth with Weld Quay via the old ferries.

The state continues to experience worsening traffic congestion, especially during daily peak commuting hours, weekends, school and public holidays.