GEORGE TOWN, June 19 – The recent statements made by YB Zairil, an Executive Councillor (Exco) member of Penang, regarding the geography of Penang have raised eyebrows and led to questions about his motives. On multiple occasions, YB Zairil has made assertions that contradict established geography and have left many wondering about his understanding of the subject. During a public forum on the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project last year, YB Zairil described the reclamation site in the Bay of Teluk Kumbar as “basically shallow muddy water.”

However, this contradicts what is commonly known about the area, as maps and geography books identify it as a sea and a thriving fishing zone. In a recent interview with Melissa Idris on Astro AWANI, YB Zairil made another contentious claim, asserting that Penang is an “island state unlike other states in the country” and implying that it has limited land for industrial development. This statement has raised concerns as it disregards the fact that Penang consists of two parts – the island (Pulau) and the mainland side known as Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley).

Seberang Perai alone is larger in area than Singapore. It is difficult to believe that YB Zairil, as a member of the Penang State Government, is unaware of the state’s geography. It is also unlikely that he would confuse an open sea (laut) with “shallow muddy water” (air selut cetek) found in paddy fields. Furthermore, it is worth noting that during the last Assembly sitting, the Chief Minister of Penang disclosed that there are 12,000 hectares of land available for industrial use in Penang, with 95% of it located in Seberang Perai.

This contradicts YB Zairil’s claim that Penang has very little land for industrial development. These misleading statements from YB Zairil raise concerns about his motives in promoting the PSR project. It is essential to question whether there is a hidden agenda behind his deliberate dissemination of false information. Some have speculated that nepotism might play a role, as one of the directors of Gamuda, the company involved in the PSR project, is a family member.

This raises suspicions that unwavering support for the project is being given to benefit certain individuals. The unethical nature of deliberately misleading the public to garner support for the PSR project is deeply concerning, especially when it comes from a member of the Penang State Government. Such actions contradict Penang’s governance policy, which emphasizes Competency, Accountability, and Transparency (CAT).

These incidents also highlight broader concerns about the government’s approach. Penangites and Malaysians have had to resort to legal battles to ensure the government respects the rule of law. The controversial luxury residential property development on Sg. Ara Hill, for instance, was approved by the State Planning Committee using “garispanduan” (guidelines) that bypassed existing laws, as ruled by the Federal Court.

YB Zairil owes Penangites and all Malaysians an explanation for his false assertions about the Bay of Teluk Kumbar and Penang’s status as an “island state” with limited land for industries. The public deserves clarity on his motives for pushing the PSR project and disseminating misleading information. Transparency and accountability are vital in maintaining the trust of the people and upholding good governance.

Pocket News