Why Datuk Seri Kong is even more excited than the contractor in protesting when the contractor has not make a single comment?

The Penang state government reminds Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha that the stop-work order on the RM 13 billion Ipoh-Padang Besar Electrified Double Track Project (EDTP) is not issued against the Transport Ministry but against the contractor MCC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd. I am puzzled as to why Datuk Seri Kong is even more excited than the contractor in protesting when the contractor has not make a single comment.

Kong is wrong to say that we have used the stop-work order to politicize the issue or as a weapon to threaten the Federal Government, as it is directed only against the contractor. At no time did we criticize the Federal government or Kong and yet he is scolding us so ferociously.

I wish to reiterate the Penang state government’s commitment to work with the Federal Government on mega projects that benefit the country. However this commitment should not used as a blank cheque and excuse to sacrifice public interests. Let Kong scold us if he wants to, but the state government has a responsibility to be pro-active because to act only when the major floods have happened would be too late.

On 12 November 2010, the Penang Government had directed Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai(MPSP) to issued a stop-work order as a pre-emptive move necessary to prevent major floods in the Penang on the same scale as in Kedah. This follows the statements by both the Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak that the recent major floods in Kedah were possibly due to the project.

The contractor must provide a written guarantee that it will bear all losses should a similar flood problem as in Kedah arise on the mainland as a result of the project. Further MMC-Gamuda must also remove and tear down any structure built by them that causes water retention or water to overflow if flooding occurs. The contractor would also be required to conduct inspection on flood-prone areas in the project construction zone with Penang state EXCO members Lim Hock Seng and Law Choo Kiang. I will be awaiting their reports before deciding whether and when to lift the stop-work order.

I am willing to meet Kong without any conditions. I respect Kong’s decision for refusing to meet me unless the stop-work order is revoked immediately. Kong’s pre-condition is unreasonable as the stop-work order is necessary to safeguard the people’s and investors’ interests because we do not want the major floods in Kedah to recur in Penang.

The losses for a similar flood in Kedah to recur in Penang would be unimaginable putting tens of billions of ringgit in investments, expensive machinery and high-technology equipment at risk. We should put the people’s welfare and public interests above profit considerations of one or two companies.

Just yesterday I had officiated the ceremony of the manufacture of the world’s only smart pen called the Echo pen in Prai, that can capture and transfer data on paper to the computer. We are proud that Penang is the place that produces such high-tech pen that is part of Apple’s i-Pad applications. However, Penang would lose all credibility if we recklessly permit flood waters as high as four feet to enter homes and factory premises without taking pro-active and pre-emptive measures as we have done.

Whilst Kong has the right to severely criticise Penang state government’s decision to issue the stop-work order, I hope he respects our right to carry out our duty and obligation to protect the livelihood of Penangites and investments of our investors.

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