I wish to inform my fellow councillors that this will be my last speech to the council as I have declined to be nominated by civil society to the state authority for reappointment to the council.
I thank the state and the council for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of Penang as a city councillor for the last six years. It has been a truly educational experience. As Harold Laski, a famous political scientist once said, one learns more about politics in one year at the school of hard knocks than one learns from a decade of lectures in political science in classroom.
Allow me to begin by congratulating the council on some important progress achieved since I joined the council. Among the most recent and important is the introduction of a bike share system in George Town. I remember making a speech at MBM on promoting cycling as one important alternative and complementary sustainable transport mode. Many cities have done that, and we must redouble our effort.
Yes, the city is cleaner and segregation of waste has been legislated. But implementation is still wanting. We need to see results in higher recycling rates and lower generation of solid waste. The city is greener in some parts with more pocket parks and tree planting. One of the best things I did with my cleaner greener allocation is the planting of trees along almost the whole stretch of Persiaran Gurney. Every time I cycle or drive by that road, I feel very happy.
But I am concerned with the lack of care and maintenance of existing trees, the higher incidence of illegal cutting of trees and even of hill forest as is so evident with the Botak Hill episode. As I said before, our beautiful hills are seriously degraded. Council should demand imposition of heavy penalty include jail sentence to deter such irresponsible behaviour.
Council should be commended for upgrading the walkways around the Pulau Tikus area. This should be a benchmark for other parts of the city and island to follow. But once again, enforcement is sorely lacking. Walkability is impeded by motorcyclists riding on pedestrian walkways and cars parking on them.
One of the most serious threats facing the council is over building in the city. I will not call this development. Development is not about erecting more high-rise buildings in every imaginable plot of land all over the island, with scant regard to neighbourhood, street scape, traffic congestion and liveability. Buildings with heritage value, even if not yet designated as such, are torn down illegally, as with the Khaw Sim Bee mansion, or legally as in the dismantling of a heritage value building along Macalister Road, to make way for the Tropicana project.
Last month building guidelines on height control along Scotland Road, a designated protocol road, were changed to allow a developer to double the number of floors he can build from 12 to 22 on a small plot of one-acre land. In another case, submission for approval has been made for construction of a 38-storey hotel on a small plot of land measuring 29,000 sq ft in a residential area along Jln Tanjong Tokong and Pantai Molek. There is good development and there is bad development. Such practices, in my mind, do not constitute good or sustainable development.
Let me now touch on the running of the Council. The Council exists to serve ratepayers and the public. Section 23 of the Local Government Act 1976 states that all meetings of the local authority shall be open to the public and to representatives of the press unless the local authority by resolution at the meeting otherwise decides, although this clause does not apply to any committee unless such committee decides otherwise.
In the interest of promoting greater transparency and participation, and in accordance with Local Agenda 21 that encourages the promotion greater public participation, this council should be a leader to adopt the policy of allowing members of the public to speak at full council meetings, and also to open up its committee and sub-committee meetings to members of the public. We can then claim to be a CAT government.
Let me end by saying that there have been ups and downs in my tenure as a councillor. There have been moments of conflict but also more moments of cooperation. I offer my apologies if I have stepped on toes in the course of my duties. Rest assured that everything was done with the best of intention and for the betterment of our city.
Address to the full council meeting of MBPP on 22 December 2016