Monday, 10 May 2010

Doesn't our opinion count at all?

One year ago, part of the grounds along the road leading to the Penang Botanical Garden was used as the venue of numerous orchid shows. It was also shared by some hawkers and traders who had been here for a very long time. Today, the whole place has been flattened and two monstrous arches are being erected.

The funds come from the Federal Government. The Penang state government has no say in it. In fact, the Federal people threatened to cut off funding for other projects in Penang if the state government did not agree to this project.

Sad. The Federal government is approving all sorts of projects in Penang with complete disregard to the opinions of the state government and the people of Penang. As a result, they are irreversibly spoiling the environment here. Previously, the dense foliage used to hide and muffle the noise of guns firing from the nearby Penang Rifle Club. When I was at the Garden last month, I could hear the noise in the furthest parts of the Garden. The place is no longer a peaceful sanctuary for people to visit or even for the monkeys and other animals. There must be consideration to relocate the club elsewhere as it has outlived its welcome here.

By the way, I was upset to see the very ironical red warning sign at the entrance to the club. "Kawasan Larangan," it said, with a rather graphic illustration of a trespasser getting shot. Rather insensitive. It conjures an image that if anyone were to stray into the premises or grounds of the club, the members would all train their guns and other weapons on the moving target.
Another disturbing example of the Federal government's heavy hand in disbursing funds is the on-going project to "improve" the funicular train service at Penang Hill. The train service has stopped since January this year so that the present tracks can be realigned into a single one. There'll be new trains that can whizz passengers from the bottom station to the top station in less than 15 minutes. I hope the engineers from the Federal government know what they are doing because if the train service fails in the future, it will be a disaster for tourism in the state.

Anyway, last week, there was an excellent story in theSun newspaper on the Penang Botanical Garden arches. The writer, Himanshu Bhatt, said that since "early this year, a scene some may well describe as one of utter horror has greeted Penangites and hundreds of visitors as they approach the island’s beloved Botanic Gardens, one of the oldest colonial-era parks in Southeast Asia. A huge swathe of land in front of the magnificent century-old raintree that looms above the gardens’ famous gates has been turned into a monstrous dusty scab, with two gigantic phallic structures built on it."

He couldn't have described it better. You can read the rest of his story here.

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