Stop thinking with Guan Eng’s head, Jagdeep

“Think about it, Jagdeep – despite the Island Republic being 68.69% the size of Penang, its lawmakers approved reclamation and development projects of scales you and your boss can only dream of accomplishing. But they played fair – they spent 34 times what your boss spent these past nine years on flood mitigation works!”

THE THIRD FORCE

Yesterday, the DAP-led administration of Penang announced that it would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Singapore’s UNESCO-listed Botanic Gardens. According to the state’s Housing and Town & Country Planning Committee Chairman, Jagdeep Singh Deo, the move was to allow the state’s arboretum to exchange technical knowhow with its Singaporean counterpart.

“The Singapore Botanic Gardens has agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with Penang and the main objective is to increase accessibility and knowledge, to transfer technological know-how in relations to horticulture, garden management, conservation and research,” he told a press conference at the Penang Botanical Gardens.

And that struck me as weird.

The reason being, the people of Penang are still reeling from the ravages of a freak rainstorm that submerged large parts of the island state quite recently. The scale of destruction inflicted by the 4th of November 2017 floods – the worst in the state’s history – was attributed to the wanton destruction of floral reserves caused by the unregulated development of luxury high-rises. And here we have Jagdeep speaking to newsmen about exchanging knowhow with Singapore to maintain the state’s flora and fauna facility.

Makes sense?

Tell me, Jagdeep, should you not be talking with Singaporeans on ways to mitigate floods instead? With a total land mass 68.69 % the size of Penang, Singapore is bursting with development activity orders of magnitude greater than you or your boss can ever imagine. Yet, our neighbour down south has never seen floods of a scale proportionate to the one you and your constituents recently experienced. Now, doesn’t that tell you something?

From where I stand, it seems quite obvious that the Singaporean government took effective measures to resolve its flood woes ever since the 1978 deluge that cost seven people their lives. They learnt their lesson, unlike your boss, who failed miserably at preventing a recurrence of the 1998 floods his own father described as the “crippling of George Town.”

Remember those words, Jagdeep?

They were uttered by Lim Kit Siang, who, on the 20th of July 1998, took to his blog with a vengeance and ripped the administration of Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon apart. According to him, a three-hour downpour that occurred the night before turned George Town into the “Venice of the East.” Ten years later, his son led a battalion of DAP politicians into Komtar right after he promised to resolve the state’s flood woes “once and for all.”

That was nine years ago.

In that nine years, the “Venice of the East” quickly graduated to become the “mighty rivers of Macau” when, on the 4th of November 2017, water levels in Sungai Pinang, Sungai Air Itam and Sungai Dondang exceeded their respective danger thresholds by unheard of margins. Ironically, it was Lim Guan Eng who once boasted that Pakatan could solve Pahang’s flood woes “in just one term” if given a chance.

Today, he’s at the tail end of his second term as Penang Chief Minister, and yet, has nothing to show for it. Tell me, Jagdeep, does your boss not want to learn ways to mitigate floods effectively from Singaporeans? I think the PAP guys have that department figured out quite well – in 2012, the Island Republic threw a whopping S$750 million (then worth RM1.875 billion) for flood mitigation works that it spread over a span of five years. That’s RM375 million a year on average, spent between the years 2012 and 2017 alone!

Think about it, Jagdeep – despite the Island Republic being 68.69% the size of Penang, its lawmakers approved reclamation and development projects of scales you and your boss can only dream of accomplishing. But they played fair – they also spent 34 times what your boss spent these past nine years on flood mitigation and prevention works!

Tell me, Jagdeep, what can you accomplish with that kind of money?

And don’t give me the story about your boss recently approving a RM350 million budget for flood mitigatory works. We’re talking nine years of massive deforestation and reclamation here, projects that severely altered the state’s topographical map. Knee-jerk mitigatory works, though necessary, will never cut it for the longer term. What we need is proper planning and control for all projects – flood mitigation and development included – to undo the damage your boss caused.

Just for that, I think you guys need to take a serious look at what’s going on down south, for there is no doubt in my mind that the Government of Singapore spends what it spends to keep the Island Republic a “disaster free zone.” Instead of wasting time with this Botanical Gardens nonsense, learn from Singapore how it developed the island without screwing things up like Guam Eng did.

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