Land reclamation deals are for public benefit

The Penang government has again defended its approvals for land reclamation projects, insisting that they will benefit the people.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said his administration had approved land reclamation totalling of 60 acres since taking over the state government in 2008, compared with the more than 3,200 acres approved by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) state government, reports The Malaysian Insider.

For the approved projects, he said the state government had received, among others, RM500 million from a developer to fund Penang’s affordable housing initiative.

"Out of one reclamation project of 25 acres, we will get the first world-class velodrome in the region in Pantai Jerejak, Bayan Baru. That project costs RM80 million.

"The project also includes three indoor basketball courts, an international-standard football field next to it, and Olympic-size swimming and diving pools.

"These facilities will be open to the public, not private club members,” he said, in his speech at the Deepavali open house hosted by the assemblyman for Seri Delima (DAP), R.S.N. Rayer, last night.

On Friday, the assemblyman for Pulau Betong (BN) Muhamad Farid Saad had tabled a motion at the Penang legislative assembly to compel the state government to subject all land reclamation applications to a public hearing.

Farid said all such new projects should be studied in detail to ensure they made ecological sense before being approved. The motion was defeated by 23 votes to 10. Nine BN members of the house voted in favour, together with one DAP member (Teh Yee Cheu -- Tanjung Bungah), while 23 from Pakatan Harapan voted against. Five PKR backbenchers abstained. (Teh apologised to his party for breaking ranks shortly after the assembly sitting adjourned.)

Lim said that of the total 3,241 acres of sea land approved for reclamation by the previous BN state government, including one that cost the developer RM1 per sq ft, 744 acres have so far been reclaimed.

Lim said the state government now has to to deal with the 2,500 acres approved by the previous government and yet to be reclaimed.

He said it could not go back on the deals it had approved, unless it was prepared to pay hundreds of millions in compensation, adding that the previous BN state government would not likely indemnify the current DAP state government against such claims.

The Penang government is looking to land reclamation permits and land swap deals to fund major infrastructure projects such as its multibillion ringgit Penang Transport Masterplan, three new highways and undersea tunnel project. These are being carried out by project delivery partners appointed via open tender. The larger of these projects are still being studied. - By Looi Sue-Chern / The Malaysian Insider

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