English World

Why the flip-flop answers on Penang tunnel project, Rahman asks Guan Eng administration

PUTRAJAYA: Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications director Datuk Rahman Dahlan today called on the Penang government to stop ‘beating around the bush’ in its explanations about the proposed Penang undersea tunnel project.

Rahman said the state government’s puzzling and conflicting answers to his questions would only force him to raise the matters repeatedly.

“Beating around the bush is not the same as providing satisfactory answers to my questions,” he said in a statement today.

He cited several specific instances from State Public Works Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng’s press conference held on May 25.

One of them was on a question that had been raised on three occassions: whether it was true that the land given to Consortium Zenith-BUCG (CZBUCG) was immediately sold or agreed to be sold at prices between RM845psf and RM1,300psf.

“Instead of giving me a proper answer, Lim insisted that the JPPH valuation had valued the land in question (at) RM475psf – and left it at that.

“Upon being pressed a fourth time, Lim then gave the surprising answer that any sale of land between CZBUCG and third-parties were “private transactions,” he added.

Rahman described such an answer as “irresponsible” as the DAP Penang Government had already paid in part and had agreed to transfer state land to the private company.

“That company then immediately signed to sell the land to another company at prices up to three times higher than the JPPH valuation. This was the very same valuation that Lim insisted was the land value.

He then brushed me off by saying that sale was a “private transaction,” he said.

Another instance, he said, was allowing the company to collect a 30-year toll concession when the Penang state government seemed to be paying for the full construction cost of project.

When asked if the full construction cost was paid for via the land transfer, Rahman said Lim gave differing answers.

“At first, he said the reason was that the Penang government had no expertise in maintaining the tunnel. In a later press statement, however, he said the company was also funding the construction cost and that it needed the toll revenue to recover their investment.

“When pressed even further, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng then flip-flopped to announce that he may consider dropping the tunnel project to save RM2 billion and do away with the 30-years toll if the Federal Government approves a third bridge instead,” he said. This, Rahman said, was indeed a bizarre turn of events.

“At first, Guan Eng had accused the Federal Government of not approving a third bridge. But when the Works Minister denied that there was any such application or request from the Penang Government, Guan Eng said it was because he was not brave enough to send the request in the first place.”

The Chief Minister, he said, had subsequently written a letter to the prime minister instead of to the Works Ministry (which is the usual process) to seek approval for a third bridge. However, he refuses to submit any documents to support his application, Rahman said.

“This highly-politicised application letter, together with the refusal to submit any documents to support the application leads us to conclude that Guan Eng is not sincere about the third bridge.

“According to Guan Eng, the Penang Government had to impose a 30-year toll at the same rate as the Second Penang Bridge in order not to sabotage the Second Penang Bridge.

“Now that he is proposing a third bridge without tolls, does it mean that his position has changed and doesn’t mind ‘sabotaging’ the Second Penang Bridge?”

-New Straits Times

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