9-day Countdown to 13GE – Pakatan Rakyat promises Accountable and Transparent, Sustainable and People-Friendly and Equitable Development for the people of Johor if voted in as the Federal as well as State government
Yesterday, I gave three reasons why Johoreans will vote in record numbers for Pakatan Rakyat in the upcoming 13th general elections. Today, I give three reasons why Johoreans need to vote in a Pakatan government not just at the federal level but also at the state level as well.
Firstly, Johoreans must vote in a Pakatan federal and state government to ensure that Accountable and Transparent Development takes place in the state of Johor.
Southern Johor is the site of three mega projects that are in various stages of development namely, the Khazanah owned Iskandar Development Region (IDR) outside Johor Bahru, the Petronas owned Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang and the Benalec owned Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park project in Tanjung Piai.
Billions of ringgit have already been poured into Iskandar and billions more of are expected to be poured into the other two mega projects.
These projects require the approval of not just the federal government but also the state government especially when it comes to land acquisition, reclamation and development.
Without the presence of a Pakatan government at the State as well as Federal government, the people of Johor will suffer the same fate as the people in Penang and Selangor before the 2008 general election.
In other words, land will be sold at below market prices to politically connected parties without any benefit to the average Johorean.
For example, it was announced last month that the Johor state government has signed an MOU to sell 1,000 acres reclaimed land in Tanjung Piai to a private company called 1MY Strategic Oil Sdn Bhd.
It was also announced last month that this same private company has signed an agreement with the government of the United Arab Emirates to develop an RM21 billion oil storage complex in Tanjung Piai.
There were no accompanying details as to the price of this land sale and the ownership structure of 1MY Strategic Oil Sdn Bhd.
Contrast this opaque deal with the Penang state government’s announcement of the undersea tunnel project linking Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam on the mainland, where the cost of the project, to be paid for by reclaimed land, was publicly disclosed for all to see.
Without a Pakatan federal government and a state government in Johor, these sorts of land grabs, which has been Barisan Nasional’s modus operandi throughout its 56 year rule, will happen with greater abandon in Johor with the influx of these mega projects.
This was why I championed the cause of the hundreds of smallholders in Gelang Patah and Tanjong Kupang about two decades ago, whose 33,000 acres of land were being compulsorily acquired by the Johor State Governmen for the Second Link and the Iskandar Development Project, making them “victims of development” in cases of land acquisition for private sector projects.
In November 1994, I visited Gelang Patah to meet with the affected smallholders from Gelang Patah and Tanjong Kupang because of more and more cases of government land acquisition for development by the private sector to end up in fantastic profits for private companies and individuals while private landowners become the victims of such development.
I raised this issue in Parliament and even organised a National Conference against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices in Kuala Lumpur on 8th January 1995.
Secondly, Johoreans must vote in a Pakatan federal and state government to ensure that Sustainable and People-Friendly Development takes place.
Pakatan is not against development but a responsible government must ensure that development does not come at the expense of the well-being of the people and the environment.
A responsible government must also ensure that development will bring benefits to all people and not just a favored few.
But this will not happen under a BN federal and state government. What we have seen so far in Iskandar is development which benefits those who can afford multi-million ringgit properties and send their children to expensive private schools.
We have not seen any concrete plans by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to set aside significant portions of land in Iskandar to build affordable housing.
We have not seen any plans by IRDA or the local authorities to expand and improve the bus service in this area.
The only plans in terms of public transportation which have been announced are a proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS) that will join JB and Singapore and also the High Speed Rail (HSR) linking KL with Singapore.
The emphasis on these expensive mega projects will be of little benefit to those who rely on public transportation that are not connected to these rail links. Furthermore, such mega projects are tremendously expensive and will take years to construct.
A people-friendly government should instead focus on a more affordable and more immediate public transportation alternatives such as the roll out of a more extensive bus network.
In addition, the BN state and federal governments will likely ‘fast-track’ Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies for some of these mega projects in the interest of ‘development’.
The environmental impact on the mangrove swamps and habitat in the Tanjung Piai National Park, for example, as a result of the Tanjung Piai Oil and Gas hub, may be potentially devastating.
Similarly devastating environmental effects may be felt by the residents and habitat in the Pengerang area if the RAPID project is rolled out without proper study and consideration.
Thirdly and finally, Johoreans must vote in a Pakatan federal and state government to ensure that Equitable Development takes place.
Currently, the focus is all on Southern Johor while other parts of Johor including in the north in Muar, Segamat and Labis and in the northeast in Mersing and in the center in Kluang and Batu Pahat, have been neglected.
A responsible government will ensure that the benefits of the rapid development in South Johor are felt and enjoyed by Johoreans in other parts of the state.
A responsible government will also ensure that development takes place in other parts of Johor and not just in the south.
A Pakatan federal government and state government in Johor represent a new deal for the people of Johor.
We will be a government which focuses on Accountable and Transparent Development, Sustainable and People-Friendly Development and Equitable Development for the betterment of the lives of all Johoreans and not just a select few.