news without borders Fines for those caught polluting rivers
by Opalyn Mok



Himanshu Bhatt and Bernard Cheah the Penang State Assembly yesterday

GEORGE TOWN: From Friday, those found polluting any of the rivers in the state will be slapped with a compound fine of up to RM10,000. Environment, health, welfare and caring society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said yesterday the state government is serious in its efforts to clean up the rivers, especially Sungai Pinang. “Sungai Pinang is one of the most polluted rivers in Southeast Asia and this is not something to be proud of,” he told a press conference. He said the state government has been creating awareness on the importance of caring for the rivers, especially by those who live near them. “We have given notices to those who stay near the rivers and also to businesses located near rivers to stop polluting them,” he said. The next move is to put in place strict enforcement by the local council and the Environment Department to stop people from dumping rubbish into the rivers. “The state government is committed to save Sungai Pinang and convert the river into a live river where activities such as canoeing can be held,” he said. Phee said schoolchildren and non-governmental organisations (NGO) will be roped in to take part in a project to rehabilitate and clean up the rivers in July. “We will introduce EM (effective micro-organism) mudballs in the rivers, so we will get the schoolchildren and the NGOs to produce millions of mudballs to throw into the rivers,” he said.

CM defends appointment as Tender Board chairman
CHIEF MINISTER Lim Guan Eng defended his appointment as the chairman of the state Tender Board amid questions from Barisan Nasional (BN) opposition assemblymen if it compromised the board’s integrity. He said it would help him to ensure the tender processes are improved and run smoothly, while holding him responsible for the board’s decisions. “My main intention to chair the board is to check all tender procedures to ensure they are in line with market rates and are value for money,” he said in his winding-up speech. Lim cited, as an example, the board’s success under his stewardship to award the replacement of Penang Hill’s railway cables at a cost of only RM589,466 when the lowest tender received was RM920,000. The eventual work took only two months when the tender offered stipulated six months. He also said the board had, under him, recalled bidders who had submitted tenders before the global oil prices dropped, resulting in the tenders being revised and reduced. Datuk Jasmin Mohamed (BN-Sungai Dua) said there was no legal provision for the chief minister to be on the board, to which Lim replied that it was possible because of his position as the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) chairman. Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya (BN-Teluk Bahang) said Lim was human and, therefore, may be subject to “weaknesses”. Muhamad Farid Saad (BN-Pulau Betong) said although it was legally right, it was morally wrong. Lim said he would now be responsible and accountable for the decisions made by the board. “It will not be like the Tan Hak Ju case where no one claimed responsibility. But, now, I am responsible,” he said, referring to the court case by Tan against the state over an alleged land scandal under the former BN administration. Lim said although the state may be forced to pay about RM40 million, including interests, in the case, former deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah had refused to cooperate with the government to help come up with a solution. He said former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had also not replied to his calls to clarify the matter. Lim also said he regretted Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Azhar Ibrahim (BNPenaga) calling him “biased” towards certain businesses. “Nobody wanted to be my friend before (he became chief minister). It is only now that they want to be my friends,” he said. “If I never had friends among businessmen, how can I be biased?” To a query from Jasmin, Lim said the PR government’s expenditure on official overseas visits came up to less than a third of that made by the previous BN government. The expenditure in 2008 (March to December) was RM427,632 compared to RM884,492 in 2007 and RM1.237 million in 2006. He also said the state collected about RM103 million in assessment dues last year compared to RM94 million in 2007.

Residents submit memo on hillslope projects
GEORGE AERIA hands over a memorandum on behalf of the Tanjong Bungah Residents Association to the state executive councillor in charge of the environment, Phee Boon Poh, at the state legislative assembly. The memorandum, containing 1,500 signatures, calls on the state government to stop all Class III and Class IV hillslope development in Penang. The association hoped the state government will take action to ban dangerous hillslope development projects in the state. Phee said he will carry out a thorough investigation into the issue of hillslope development. He said some of the projects had been approved by the previous state government and these approvals are legally binding. “The only way for us to look at it is to ensure the development work is conducted according to the regulations,” he said.

‘Rasuah’ sparks off exchange
AN UNKNOWN backbencher who uttered "rasuah" (bribery) sparked an exchange, with both sides pointing fingers and demanding apologies. It happened when Datuk Jaharah Hamid (BNTelok Air Tawar) got up to clarify a statement by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that the rate of the land leased to Safira Country Club, which Jahara has links to, by the previous state government was lower than the market rate. When the backbenchers voiced their support for Lim, someone was heard to say “rasuah”. This prompted Jaharah to demand an apology. When no one owned up, Jaharah pointed to Tan Cheong Heng (DAP-Padang Lalang) and said he should apologise for uttering the word. Tan objected and told Jaharah not to engage in a “teka-teki” (guessing game). Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Azhar Ibrahim (BN-Penaga) asked Speaker Abdul Halim Hussain to play the recording of the proceedings. When the sitting resumed after lunch break, Abdul Halim said the word had indeed been uttered but it could not be determined who said it. Tan insisted on an apology from Jaharah – which he received – and it calmed matters down. The assembly adjourned sine die after approving three enactments – the State of Penang Loan (Batu Kawan Indoor Arcade and Seafood Centre Project) Enactment 2009, Loan (Water Supply Scheme for the State of Penang) (Amendment) Enactment 2009, and Chief Minister of Penang (Incorporation) Enactment 2009.

Gerakan welcomes Hindraf call for dialogue
GEORGE TOWN: The state Gerakan has welcomed the willingness of Hindraf leader P. Wathamoorthy to have a dialogue with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, saying it is a positive step. Its chairman, Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, said yesterday the socio-economic problems faced by the Indian community highlighted by Hindraf could be thrashed out through consultation and discussion instead of confrontation. Teng said the socio-economic ills, education problems and citizenship status issue faced by the Indian community should not be treated as problems of the Indian community alone. “These problems should be treated as Malaysian problems. Therefore, these problems must be resolved by the government and all Malaysians rationally, with cool head and minimum politicising,” he said.