There are just too many issues attached to the project, and Penang should defer it until all the issues can be readily clarified, says Gerakan

GEORGE TOWN: Gerakan has urged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to defer plans to continue with the proposed RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project, saying it has become shrouded in controversy.

It is not about politics, but more about addressing the issues of accountability, transparency and concerns over the environment.

Those issues have been fairly sidestepped until the involvement of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) recently, said state Gerakan committee member Wong Mun Hoe.

The veteran said that when the project was first mooted, Gerakan had joined the civil society communities here in voicing out concerns about the environment and the cost factor.

Then came the elements of how the project was progressing; from the feasible studies to the construction, said Wong.

“Our concerns were valid; it was not about politics but whether the project can be done in the first place and to do it in a cost effective way.

“Most importantly, is the cost factor. Can the state afford such a mega project? If yes, why are we paying it off through land reclamation when the state suffers from an acute shortage of land?”

Lim has evaded answering the issues, and recently informed that the state has not paid a single sen for the project.

But it runs contrary to previous statements, Wong claimed.

Hence, there were just too many issues attached to the project, and Penang should defer it until the issues can be readily clarified, he noted.

For now, Wong asked Lim to respond to the feasibility study following claims that it was overpriced and the developers were paid for it without doing any real earthworks for the tunnel or the three paired roads.

He said that the people deserve to know the progress of the feasibility studies; it is 50% or 80% completed.

“What about the input from the environmental experts?”

And of course, why was the study cost quoted at high rates, he questioned.

On Lim’s claims that the feasibility report would only commence when the undersea tunnel only commences work in 2027 as the priority now was the three paired highways to be linked to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, Wong said the three paired roads are part of the tunnel package.

There was a need to conduct a feasibility study as the roads were part of the tunnel’s traffic dispersal system, Wong noted.

“We cannot have one without the other. The roads are linked to the tunnel. So, there is a need for a feasibility study.”

There were just too many questions and few answers to the issue.

So it is better for Penang to put the project on the sidelines until it can resolve the issues associated with it, Wong suggested.

If the state was stubborn about it, Wong predicts that it may backfire on DAP in the next general election.

“I am now thinking that the political climate is getting favorable for us because DAP cannot seem to handle issues of the environment, and now made worse, as they want to build a tunnel in the middle of the channel.”