Friday, July 23, 2010

Open Letter to CM of Penang: PICC and its unanswered questions

16 July 2010

Dear Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng:

Penang based NGOs and individuals are concerned about the recent media report that the Penang state government is pushing for building of the Penang International Convention Centre (PICC) at the PISA ground in Relau. Many questions and concerns have been raised on the feasibility of building the PICC there, yet these questions remain substantially unanswered.

To reiterate some of the many pressing questions about PICC (pertinent and critical points highlighted):

• What is the actual demand for conventions/exhibitions in Penang in view of the oversupply of convention and exhibition spaces in Kuala Lumpur and this region? This needs to be projected over the next five years, ten years and fifteen years.

• Is there a marketing strategy to promote Penang as a MICE destination internationally in view of the intense competition and oversupply of convention centres in the region? Or is the Penang state government dependent on the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board and the Malaysian Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) which are both Federal bodies?

• What is the total projected development cost of PICC upon completion? Is RM50 million still the right figure? How will the project be financed and what is the cost per annum to MPPP over the term of the project’s financing?

• What is the projected rate of return on capital for MPPP over the initial five years, ten years and fifteen years of PICC’s operations? This is critical if the project is to be tendered out using a build, manage and transfer (BOT) model and MPPP being the ultimate owner of this project.

• What are the projected maintenance costs to be incurred by MPPP for keeping PICC up to international standard? Again, projected over at least a fifteen year period, with explanation of assumptions.

• The PICC will be tendered out on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) model. What are the terms and conditions under this model? Will any state or public assets (eg. state land) be traded in to the private developer in lieu of payment to build the PICC? If yes, what are the details of the exchange and will it be made public?

• What are the answers to the critics that argue that PICC will be built in a small adjacent plot of land next to PISA? In particular, what are the plans for traffic, including access, dispersal and parking?

• You recently said in a press conference that the private developer will be responsible for traffic dispersal plans. Why is a developer tasked the responsibility of planning for traffic dispersal and not the MPPP’s Engineering and Planning Divisions or the Public Transport Council? Will the public and the affected neighbouring communities in Bayan Baru, Relau, Sungai Ara and Bukit Jambul be consulted in the traffic and planning studies?

• Several private developers have indicated their plans to build convention centres eg. in the Light Waterfront and Times Square projects. These will be bigger, more strategically located and better supported by transport links and 5-star hotels. What are the projections as to what will happen to the PICC when these new convention centres are completed?

• You were reported to have said that PISA is “fully occupied” which is why there is an urgent need for a PICC. PISA is currently used for exhibitions in only about one in three weekends (for 3 days). For the rest of the time, PISA remains largely underutilized. Is there data to show the “full occupancy” of PISA? How many days/weekends in a year is it booked for events?

• What has been the net profit (if any) MPPP has made out of PISA since it began its operations? What are the projected profit figures over the next fifteen years? How much does it cost MPPP annually to maintain PISA and what is the projected maintenance cost over the next fifteen years? How much is planned to be spent on the upgrading of the PISA so that it will be of sufficient standard to complement PICC?

A thorough feasibility study to address all these questions needs to be carried out before a project of this magnitude and risk is to be undertaken. More so when RM50 million of ratepayers money is involved. Has such a study been done and if not, is there one planned? When will it be available in the public domain?

Many Penangites would argue that MPPP should concentrate on its core services of improving and maintaining basic services, transport and accessibility, public spaces, cleanliness, upgrading amenities of local markets and seeing to low cost housing. How is it justified for MPPP to use its limited resources and a huge part of its budget to build and manage a convention centre? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for other agencies like the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) to undertake this project rather than MPPP?

Dear Mr. Chief Minister. You have been a consistent advocate of the Freedom of Information (FOI) and the Right to Information (RTI) both inside and outside Parliament. You have also actively promoted the state’s Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) policy. We support you wholeheartedly in this, and therefore look forward to the publication of a full and comprehensive feasibility study on the PICC proposal. We believe it is through such public information and discussion that the best way forward can be found, not least for projects that involve millions of ringgit of public money and using limited MPPP resource.

We eagerly await your response to this letter.

Yours Sincerely,

Tan Seng Hai


for the Coalition for Good Governance, Penang.

(Note: The Coalition for Good Governance, Penang (CGGP) is a working group of Penang NGOs, community groups and individuals working for good governance in Penang. It was formed recently, to take forward issues such as transparency, accountability, local democracy, participation and social equity. These sorts of issues formed the core discussion at Penang Forum 2.)


Dear Mr Tan,

In several occasions i had met you in the Speaker's Square and also participated in your earlier petition which you drafted to send to the honourable CM.

Whilst i appreciate your commitments in running a good cause for the saving of environments for the faltering Island into a substantial mess. The living environment is going into rot and ruin by the lackadaisical attitudes of not only the State Government but also the Penangites themselves which we need people like you to crack their awareness!

What's more important than development and face lifting of the State for the State Government to show off to their rivals the opposing Political Parties, that they are the more capable elites?! More so, the many gullible voters Penangites they are also easily being hoodwinked into supporting these political repertoire and poseurs, thus, an insurance has been more or less executed to ensure their next succession of being the State guardian and the Government, by DAP!

CM LGE, being the Supremo of the Party, inevitably would have this kind of 'unassailable' mentality imbued with the perception that majority of the peoples here are still his henchmen supporters. hence causes him to become a swollen head!

Mr Tan may proclaim a representation of the fair minded Penangites but in the eyes of the ruling dominance, do they also think along the line that you are crafting it to become?

When a politician has risen to a high chair, in most cases he would have only see things amongst his peers across the shoulders for just a simple reason, he would have either too busy having too little time to really come down to the lower level to see and to understand the common people's plights and grievances! Or he's pretty busy in playing politics. All conveyances of problems and issues of plight are via EXCO's reports or meetings and repeated meetings having all the talks but little or no action! That's also the main reason why at many a times, our memorandum, petition papers or thick folder of appeals have been either set aside by the desk, or worst, be brushed under the carpet!

Come back to the mentality of our general brethren Penangites at large, are they really the vanguards for the Change juggernaut? Or they are still the fans of a charismatic Icon that they had had bolstered up that they are still not willing to put him down from the sky to the ground of reality and ask him to do works for their better welfares and well beings for the homeland which we have all owned, with rights?!

Politics aside. From the way they DAP would have performed, they are still the same old oppositional party and political histrionics are all more the CM is still enthusiastically perform and indulge in his many political rendition or charades!

How much has the CAT walked its talks? Less people did show concerns except the group of Mr Tan are throwing out all the efforts in writing these petitions, holding talks in the Speaker's Square and whatnot! How about how much the resonance from the people?! I think Mr Tan is in the right position to tell from the dock, when the upper hand would ask!

By looking at it, PICC is going to be a cut and dried case, they are going to build it by hook or by crook. All your actions will be rendered futile and a desperate attempt! What's the point of asking him to reveal the rationale behind the development of another plain clear white elephant?!

Just to pacify us?!

I always remember this adage -

"The Strong do what they like, the Weak endures what they must!"

Nonetheless, my supports still go with you!

Try hard and never give up!

P/s : It's just my 2 cts opinion, I'll suggest Mr Tan's army to have assigned you as the Speaker to the press and have all enough said issues in the Speaker's Corner be published in the main media, rather than let it be evaporated in the air! This only is the real test of how much 'freedom of speech' our beloved CM is propagated! Not just another gimmick, vaunted.


Dear Anonymous:
Thank you for your comments and support. I agree with you that the CM will go ahead with the PICC project regardless of public opposition to it. However, he cannot afford to fail on this as it will be a political disaster for him and his state govt. Many people are watching him closely on this. We have already put it on record our concerns in the petition and this open letter. If he goes ahead and it fails, we can say "We told you so".

However, please do not feel despair and futile our actions. Do not underestimate the rakyat's voice, our voice, your voice...however meek it may sound. It is only through contantly speaking out that we can effect change, however small the change may be.
Remember PGCC? PORR? Anti-ISA review? Botanic Gardens? GST postponement?

Cheers and have faith.
Tan Seng Hai

Hi Mr Tan,

I just took a morning jog at Botanic Garden and the two vampire arches truly worked me up into laughter.

Of all heaven they can think of, why the two concrete waste?! Neither they are symbolic of any of our State emblem nor culture. What are they meant for, to show that Malaysia boleh again? Cheesed off!

Imagine, a project with that size which needed nearly two years yet they can't be completed. I can complete it rigidly within less than a year!

The whole site is a mess! Poor innocent health concerned old folks just simply unaware of the danger and have their vehicles parked there at the hoarding. Being an Engineer yourself, will you simply advise people to ignore their safety like that?!

Damages had been done, and money goes into drain again. What we can do now is to make sure they will reveal the accounts of how much losses they have incurred for the tax payers. Pls keep up on that matter.

Notwithstanding the political stance, the State government and more so the EXCO who is incharged of the portfolio Danny Low must also show up to exert his responsibility, not merely talk and kick the ball to the old lady Minister! We have seen enough monkey tricks in the garden....

Should the vampire-like collapse in the wrong time on the wrong people when flock of them are there breathing fresh air, they are going to get it as well! No excuse of not planning for contingency right? Only the stupid hoardings is enough?!

Of track, there is another white elephant or mosquito house is coming up from the foothill of Bukit Bendera. The 6th storey multi-level car parks building seems like abandoned for months!

I do have some access to behind the door infos. Will contribute if you wish to take up the case.

Really appreciate what you and cohorts are doing. As long as you remain unbiased, apolitical, i will always stay your backdrop support.

Your works are cherished.


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