Unlike Dr Lim Chong Eu, Koh Tsu Koon has shown that he is not really his ‘own man’. The sorry tale of the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project immediately leaps up to remind us of Koh’s leadership deficiency.
While PORR may be a federal project, the Chief Minister of a State in which PORR will be constructed has at least the right to, and indeed is expected to assess, comment on and even object to any adverse impact on Penangites. But we hear deafening silence from Koh in this regard. Yes, we were treated to his sandiwara-ish (theatrical) sparring with Works Minister Samy Vellu as to when the PORR project would commence.
Penangites, who have been fairly tolerant of Koh, are now actually pissed off with him for not daring to say anything about the dodgy contract for PORR's construction. In fact they don’t even want PORR, not especially when a so-called ‘RM2’ company gets to develop a RM2,000,000,000 project, and then, only with the help of a soft government loan.
A concerned Penang group of citizens raised perceptions of dodgy issues about the contract and contractor with the Prime Minister. While I know they have some good questions, after having read their letter, I feel they might have diluted its impact somewhat by over-doing the complaining and over-exaggerating minor points, making their case sounds a wee negative. Thus I have extracted only those points that I feel merit serious considerations, and edit them for better reading – if you are interested in their letter to the Prime Minister, please read here:
Their complaints have been that of:
(1) awarding the contract to a company without open tender.
(2) the company awarded the RM2,000,000,000 project having no track record in construction.
(3) the company with only a paid up capital of RM50,000 raising more question on its suitability for such a major project.
(4) some directors of company were ex-bankrupt.
(5) the company being provided free, 6 pieces of public recreation and reclaimed lands, with an additional 50 acres of reserved lands. These are on top of the company being awarded the collection of toll for 30 years or more.
(6) no current up-to-date EIA [environmental impact assessment] justifying the Penang government’s hasty decision to demolish government quarters in Taman Jesselton to be surrendered to the developer.
Note the last point. If true, it shows just how keen the Koh’s government has been in supporting a questionable award. As for Point No 5, how and where in the world would a contractor benefit from such a State government largesse?
Koon Yew Yin, former secretary- general of Master Builders Association Malaysia and member of the Board of Engineers, was shocked to hear Works Minister Samy Vellu announcing the Cabinet decision to award the RM2 billion contract directly to Peninsular Metro Works Sdn Bhd. Well, he was not only shocked but disgusted as well, saying that such a multi-billion ringgit contract without inviting open tender would foster corruption. Indeed his words were that the amount of money involved would even tempt a saint.
But Chief Minister Koh knows that PORR is UMNO’s baby so he remains silent on the probable impact of such a dodgy contract on his charge, namely the ordinary people of Penang, because he doesn't want to upset Ah Hniah ('Big Brother’ in Bukit Mertajam dialect). Many Penangites have said Koh is where he is only by the good grace of Ah Hniah.
But at the same time he also knows that Penangites are against PORR, so what has he done? On 10 December 2005 I posted in BolehTalk blog Koh TK okays PORR commencement where I highlighted Koh’s usual hand-wringing theatrics, but actually meant to prepare Penangites to favourably expect PORR, soon. I wrote:
"Penang Chief Minister Koh TK bemoans his frustration with the impossible traffic problems of Penang. He cries out for help from the federal government, averring that he wants to be answerable to the Penang public for improving the situation."
That's the hand-wringing part with a touch of his projected heroic duty to Penangites. Now of course the PORR will be presented as 'THE' solution to those traffic woes!
I continued with what I perceived through his theatrics, "He groans and moans, but in reality he’s priming the Penang public up to accept the PORR as one of the 'solutions' towards meeting this traffic woes that he has suddenly, out of the blue, started to cry about."
I wasn't very far off because shortly after that, Humpty Humpty announced that PORR will kick off. But since the majority of Penangites had voted for him and his party, well, then those Penangites Deserve PORR. I feel sorry for those who didn't (ie. vote for him).
Engineer Koon Yew Yin reminded Penangites not to forget that they would be the ones paying toll to cover all the construction costs, interest charges as well as the contractor’s profit.
He stated that if PORR has to be built to solve Penang's traffic problem then it should have been provided free to the people, because it behoves the chief minister and his government to provide a good and free city road system as an essential need, much like education, health care and clean air.
When he considered that Penang afterall is similar to Singapore in so many ways, he wondered why Penangites couldn't enjoy the good planning that the Singaporean government gives to its people. In this deficiency, we must certainly look at Koh Tsu Koon and his government, not so much for the disgraceful PORR contract alone, but in all matters afflicting Penang and Penangites since he assumed the leadership mantle from Dr Lim Chong Eu.
Related: Koh Tsu Koon should go (1)