Monday, January 27, 2014

Speaking out for the people is a Wakil Rakyat’s job

Bukit Relau receives due ‘medical attention’ after ‘Botak Protest’ by Teh Yee Cheu. Pressure by the Tanjong Bunga State Assemblyman resulted in new consultants being engaged by the land owner to restore the illegally cleared hill land.

Pakatan Rakyat Penang is exemplary in its execution of democracy in that elected representatives of the people can speak out without fear or favour with regards to the State Government’s actions or inaction. In all aspect, this professionalism to separate party issues and governance is highly beneficial to all. A yes-man would no sooner prove to be detrimental to both the coalition and the public.

Teh Yee Cheu recently shaved his head bald as a protest against the developers of Bukit Relau to restore the barren hill to its previous condition. Six months earlier, General Accomplishment Sdn. Bhd. was fined RM30,000 under Section 70A (1) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act for carrying out illegal earthworks at the site. Even Karpal Singh, the National Chairman of DAP had sounded out his displeasure over the inappropriate clearing of trees.

It was reported today through Chow Kon Yeow, the State Local Government Committee Chairman that General Accomplishment Sdn. Bhd will engage another consultant to help mitigate the illegal land clearing on the hill.

Widely known as the environmentally friendly State Assemblyman who cycles to work, Teh has always stood his ground to question the government on issues relating to public interest. He represents the Tanjong Bunga constituency.

Batu Uban State Assemblyman supportive of Teh’s actions

Dr. Jayabalan, the State Assemblyman for Batu Uban, where Bukit Relau is located, supported Teh’s protest as a ‘symbolic gesture towards the violation of a pristine environment and the manner in which the destruction has been condoned’.

“Despite promises, the mitigation and restoration process has not yet been carried out.

“I wish to reiterate that I support Teh in his actions and that there will be other measures taken to protest the destruction of the hill,” he said in a text message.

In this particular case, the State Government together with the Department of Environment should have taken the matter further to ensure that the landowners keep their promise to rehabilitate the hill. About six acres of land have been cleared and civil society groups have been vocal towards the paltry sum for such a huge area of deforestation.

Speaking out for the people is a Wakil Rakyat’s job (© Carolyn Khor)

Enviromental impact

“Massive erosions are found and siltation has formed in the river nearby”, claimed Teh Yee Cheu.
“With only 9 per cent of forest reserves left, more should be done to conserve the hill and to promote sustainable development,” he added.

When asked why he chose the 1st of January to shave his head, Teh answered that he hoped to start the New Year with a strong message that ‘green living’ should be a priority for all and that in the public’s interest, the State and Federal agencies should step up their efforts to protect the environment.

“I am the people’s representative and I am just doing my job,” he said.

Teh also mentioned that he had raised the issue during the State Assembly seating in June and December 2013, prior to staging the public protest.

Cleaner Greener Penang

Penang’s famous tagline ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’ is evident that the Penang State Government is serious about protecting the environment. Many Penangites share the same sentiment towards hill degradation and environment lovers are hopeful that the irresponsible parties are given sufficient pressure to replant the trees.

As Bukit Relau is 250 metres above sea level, it should also be rezoned as hill land and unsuitable for development.
State Environment Committee Chairman, Phee Boon Poh was reported in The Sun Daily today as ‘not wanting to comment further’ as the forestry reports had been released in May last year and that he ‘did not want to run down his DAP comrade’.

Phee Boon Poh is right and courteous about promoting a united front. However, it cannot be denied that Teh’s action had prompted the landowners to take immediate remedial steps to rectify the situation of the bald hill. Overall, the Penang State Government should be applauded for putting the people’s interest first. As any good government should know – it was the People’s Power who put them there in the first place.
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