Berjaya’s 1990s proposals and what really happened

By Penang Forum Steering Committee

Given the ongoing statements and accusations that have been issued by the above developer with regards to its earlier proposals for Penang Hill, it is timely that a response be made by the NGOs of Penang to remind the public of the actual sequence of events that took place in the early 1990s.

   – In the late 1980s, Dr Lim Chong Eu had a vision of development for Penang Hill.
- Berjaya Corp was offered the opportunity to work in partnership with the state.
- No public input or consultation was carried out; no stakeholder meetings were held.
- Proposals from Berjaya included massive theme parks, condominiums, hotels, a casino, a golf course and a Japanese retirement village and involved critical hill-cutting, highly probable damage to water sources and widespread destruction of flora and fauna.
- The people of Penang were horrified at the proposed destruction of their beloved hills. The largest people-powered campaign ever witnessed took place. Tens of thousands of signatures were collected and sent to the government. Placards, banners, posters and anti-Penang Hill development project T-shirts were witnessed all over Penang.
- The 1990 general election saw the defeat of Dr Lim to DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, despite all that Lim had achieved for Penang. This was analysed as being due in no small part to the rejection of the Penang Hill development by the electorate of Penang.
- One of Dr Koh’s first acts as Chief Minister was to ensure that Berjaya’s detailed EIA was subjected to a full public hearing, and his rejection of the project was based on the recommendation of the EIA panel. He then ensured that a Local Plan was drawn up for Penang Hill and gazetted. Till today, it remains as the only Local Plan we have protecting the fragility of the site, and it is still enforced.
Eighteen years later in 2008, the loss of Penang and Dr Koh at the general election has been also attributed in part to the rejection of the massive Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project, supported by the ruling coalition. One of CM Lim Guan Eng’s first acts was to ensure that PGCC’s proposals of 38 40-storey tower blocks were not approved at the Turf Club.

Berjaya has stated that it moved out from Penang in disgust and focused their energies on Langkawi – “it was Langkawi’s gain and Penang’s loss”. The statement surely represents a very one-sided, one-developer’s viewpoint. The people of Penang were very relieved then and are appalled today to face a possible revival of a determination to profit from a very fragile eco-system.

The Penang public just wants its hills preserved, guarded and cared for; we look to our state government to ensure that self-serving, profit-driven entrepreneurs take their ill-conceived plans elsewhere. Our future and the future of our children cannot be left in the hands of developers.