Shrine politicized?

The weather for the past week has been like a roller coaster. One moment it is hot, the next it’s raining and then it becomes hot again. Probably it signifies the change of weather from the El Nino to the La Nina phenomenon as reported by the Meteorological Department.

The same happens in the Penang State Assembly which we see an “unpredictable weather”. It was a normal debate on the state’s public policies, and suddenly a heated debate started. The two leaders from both sides of the bench were debating over a Taoist shrine in the Armenian Street Park. I was listening to the debate on that specific day, and it was a really long debate.

The DAP lawmakers were claiming that the UMNO state leaders suggested to demolish the shrine and the issue was reported over the news media as well.

On the other side of the bench, the opposition leader, Dato’ Jahara stated that she never mentioned the word “demolish” or “roboh” in her debate. The hansard of the state assembly is a strong prove to that. She was merely suggesting relocating the shrine to a more suitable place.

I am not for or against any of them in this issue. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has raised his stand over protecting the heritage value of the shrine. He is not wrong; heritage has been a huge value in our city. Dato’ Jahara was not wrong as well when she mentioned on the modern values in a modern park design. She was trying to debate on the design of a public park rather than specifically on the relocation of the shrine.

To me, what went wrong was the nature of the debate itself. The state assembly is a prestigious hall for the elected representatives of the people to draft and make laws of the state. In one of my previous article, I have mentioned that until today specific plans, guidelines and papers were not gazetted. What happen to the Penang Structural Plan, Special Area Plan, housing development guidelines and many more? It’s either not gazetted yet or it was not executed. The Penang State Assembly should have raise on these instead.

Now don’t get me wrong. Solving this shrine issue is an important issue; but it should not be debated in the State Assembly. Rather, this issue falls on the responsibility of the local government. The Speaker of the DUN should also explain why he accepted the debate question and not other more important topics such as limiting the terms of the Chief Minister.

In the debate, Lim Guan Eng has also proudly stated that he is protecting and preserving the heritage value of the shrine which is about 70 years old. His words and emotions were so strong that many would have believed that he is a fighter for the heritage of Penang.

But if Lim Guan Eng was so concerned about the heritage value, why hasn’t he spoken out on the demolishment of Runnymede, Soonstead mansion, Khaw Sim Bee mansion, Balik Pulau market and the Prai old market? These buildings are more than hundred years old. They definitely are equivalent or have more value compared to the shrine when it comes to heritage.

What about the trees and hills of Penang that has been destroyed? Trees may be very common to many, but these trees on the hills are hundreds or may be thousands of years old. It is part of the heritage of Penang as well. When destroyed, it would take another hundreds of years to grow it again; unlike buildings which we can build easily.

Looking back at the debate, one should re-think, what are the real stand of the DAP lawmakers who are the government of the day when it comes to different issues? Do they only raise issues which benefit them politically? Do they really pay attention to important issues that affects the people?

We understand that politics being politics and that politicking exists in our circle of life, but it should be limited to a certain extent. When it comes to governing the state and the nation, politics must be minimized.

In this particular shrine issue, I think we must retain the tokong in Armenian Street, but we must relocate the “Tokong” back to Melaka.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 20th May 2016.

Pimples in Penang

During everyone’s teenage years, we experience puberty. All of us went through the process of physical changes through which we begin to mature. The hormonal changes in our body are causing our body to mature physically. The hormones is also a cause of one of the major problems faced during our puberty years; pimples!

When pimples are out of control and grew excessively, many would get embarrassed. Many would just hide in their homes and refuse to come out to meet people. Not exaggerating, but I believe some of us may have known some schoolmates may have refused to leave their homes because one pimple may have grown on their face.

We all know that our face is our main outlook when we meet people. Our face may be just a small part of our whole body, but it largely represents the whole of us. Of course, most people do not “depend on their face” or outlook to earn a living, unlike models and celebrities. Although we can do nothing much on our physical features, we would like to keep it look neat & look healthy.

As our face represents us largely; we, Penangites represents the state as whole. How the state is being developed, how the state is being managed, how the traffic and environment is being managed, what kind of leaders that we elect into positions; largely represents the mindset of the Penangites; despite every Penangites may have different views.

Recently as being reported in the news, our “Penang face” has grown a lot of pimples. If we look at the whole state using Google Map or Google Earth, we can see brown patches everywhere. “Pimples” have grown in around Penang Hills, Teluk Bahang, Paya Terubong, Relau and Balik Pulau. The mainland was not spared with the “facial problems” too. The “pimples” that I meant here are deforestation that has occurred on the hills either for property developments or farming.

Last year alone, this issue has been brought up by several NGOs, politicians and even residents. The state government has also stated that there were stop work orders issued on the hill clearings and mitigation efforts were taken on the issue. Unfortunately, today, not only that the projects then were not being stopped, but even more hill clearings were conducted.

In the report by Free Malaysia Today, the Penang Hill Land Working Committee Chairman Farizan Darus has stated that more than 100 hectares of land within the Penang Hill range have been cleared; about 90 hectares were cleared within Relau and Paya Terubong; another 14 hectares of clearing were also carried out in Bukit Kukus while the Star reported that about 30 hectares of land were being cleared in Teluk Bahang. If this is true, this brings to a total of approximately 234 hectares of land which is equivalent to 328 Old Trafford football fields of the Manchester United.

“Pimples” of such level is a serious “health condition” for the Penang. Such problems cannot be accepted and must be cured immediately.

Penangites have called and decided for change in 2008 and 2013. But they are certainly not calling for a “hormonal change” that brings “pimple issues” to the face of Penang. We do not want to have a day when we have to hide because of the “pimples”.

As I have said, Penangites represents the state as a whole. Whatever happens to Penang today is due to our actions. “Hormonal changes” are important for our maturity; but we must also prevent the negative effects of the “hormones”.

We have destroyed enough greens and nature. We already have to pay entrance fees to watch birds and butterflies. Do we want to have one day when we have to pay an entrance fee to watch trees?