Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Survey results turning farcical

Every now and then, I find myself travelling away from my base in Penang which means to say that I'm away from the Internet unless I bring my Macbook along. I don't usually take the laptop along because most times, carrying it on trips is a hassle indeed. The laptop's backpack is too bulky.

I was away on Sunday and came back late yesterday evening. I was too tired even to switch on the Macbook after I returned and only got to go into the Internet to catch up on all developments over the past two days.

I've already stated my position very clearly on the two concrete arches at the Penang Botanic Garden. For the good of the Garden, the arches must go. The environs must be brought back to its original state, not marred with man-made imports like monster arches. The Garden must have attractions that blend into its surroundings and say to say, arches like these contribute little to preserving its original objectives. It has to be a quiet and cool green lung, not an open tourist attraction without places to shelter from searing heat. And that's what building the concrete arches under the Ninth Malaysia Plan has helped to destroy: the pristine nature and greenery of the Botanic Garden.

This morning, I revisited the Ministry of Tourism home page to see the latest development on the survey they are carrying on retaining or removing the two arches. What I saw wasn't pretty. In fact, there are few words to describe the outrage when I saw how the poll results are being manipulated by people with no sense of public decency. Before I went away, there were about 2,300 people that had voted in the poll. Even at that time, I was starting to have some misgivings because I could see that within a day or so, the number of "Yes" votes (to retaining the arches) had increased from a number less than 100 to more than 200. Still, I thought nothing much of it, putting it down to some people - maybe from within the Ministry itself - who had been asked to push up the "Yes" votes to a more decent percentage. Now, within two days of me being away from the computer, the number of votes has ballooned to an astonishing 13,100. I can't imagine an increase of almost 11,000 votes within 48 hours. Somehow, there must be a concerted effort by people with ulterior motives to use this survey for their own selfish ends. Maybe, by two sets of people. One trying to manipulate the survey with a "Yes" vote and another group manipulating back with a "No" vote". Although the survey still shows a healthy preference for the Ministry to bring down the arches, in the end how can the results be taken as the true wishes of Malaysians? I'm greatly appalled by outsiders who chose to trivialise a matter that holds dear to the Penang people who are most affected, one way or another, by the arches themselves.

UPDATE: I am distressed by the absurdity of the manipulation. Within half an hour or so of me writing this blog at about 8.30am, the survey has registered 4388 votes for "Yes". Within half an hour, that's an increase of 246 votes. And 16 minutes later at 9.22am, the number of "Yes" votes jumped by another 153 to 4541. That's totally unacceptable by any measure. It can only suggest that the manipulation process now seems automated and is going out of hand. The Ministry of Tourism cannot ignore this. Unless they accept that their survey has been compromised, there will be accusations that the manipulations are coming from within in order to preserve their foolhardy project. They must either come out with a more fool-proof survey or take alternative means to gauge the proper feelings of the stakeholders of this Garden expansion project.

UPDATE 2: As at 5.40pm today, I notice that the survey has been brought down. It no longer appears on the Ministry of Tourism's home page. No thanks to all those people who sabotaged the effort to engage the opinions of stakeholders in this Penang Botanic Garden arch project.

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