About us

The Penang Forum is a fluid and loose coalition of progressive public-interest civil society groups based in Penang, Malaysia.

We aim to promote participatory local democracy, sustainable planning and development, economic justice, affordable housing, environmental consciousness, sustainable transport, workers’ rights and heritage conservation.

A Steering Committee guides the direction of the Penang Forum coalition and organises events and campaigns. It is run in the spirit of consultation and consensus as a collective without a permanent secretariat. No one group or individual dominates the coalition.

Periodically, the group organises a major event – Penang Forum – which brings together Penang-based civil society groups and concerned individuals to discuss issues of importance to the state and then highlights these to the Penang state government. The first Penang Forum was held in 2008, soon after Pakatan Rakyat, an opposition alliance, wrested control of the state from the Barisan Nasional.

The genesis of the Penang Forum can be traced to the Pesta Rakyat Merdeka event in 2007, organised by Penang-based civil society groups to mark the 50th anniversary of Merdeka. The cooperation among these NGOs was further strengthened through their involvement in the successful Anti-PGCC campaign in 2007-2008 to oppose the Penang Global City Centre project at the site of the Penang Turf Club.

5 Comments on “About us

  1. Hi Penang Forum
    Thank you for the opportunity to express and share our views in the making of a thriving liveable city, i.e. Penang, our home.

    Due to constraints, i’m unable to personally attend the much anticipated forum.
    Be as it may, i have some thoughts to share in making Penang a vibrant home that everyone wants to come home to, in this particular instance, on transportation.

    I have written in over the years to various agencies and NGOs, and don’t mind doing it all over again because i believe changes will happen in its own time if given the chance 🙂

    Here are excerpts of some of my thoughts on improving Penang transportation, which i believe will have positive multiplier effect on the local economy and social development.

    i welcome further discussion on other aspects of social and econmic development with particular attention to preserving and enhancing on local build & natural environment.

    regards
    cheahst.

    Penang Transportation
    in my opinion, rail is not suitable for Penang island as compared to mini buses because:

    1) rails are most efficient when it serves areas with pools of high ridership demands. rail stops should be spaced at least 1km apart to enable the carriages to reach optimal speed and delivery efficiency. start stop modes significanty degrade rail efficiency.

    mini bus stops can be placed at closer intervals e.g 200m and near amenities e.g. shops, govt agencies, schools, hospitals, etc

    2) rail lines and stops require massive capital outlay, support infrastructure, and land. elevated railways also means loss of roadways, visual obstruction of heritage / cultural highlights, loss of privacy to building occupants and subject of objectionable noise pollution.

    mini buses can use existing infrastructure with relatively little negative impact.

    3) rail lines are immutable and cannot cater to changing residential patterns, ie once the rails are laid, the route cannot be altered.

    mini buses can be re-routed to service deep within housing estates and its route easily adapted to shifting residential patterns, township growths, or special events like street closures due to organized activities or flooding etc.

    4) rail carriage access is usually not at road level, making it difficult to access for those with special needs.

    mini buses offfer easier road level access for those with reduced mobility..

    5) carriages usually have longer arrival intervals compared to mini buses. it is better to have more frequent mini buses than longer wait for larger carriages in terms of improved travel
    transit times.

    6) mini bus services are easily scalable and more buses can be added in relatively quicker time. mini buses can also take advantage of fast changing technologies in road transportation, e.g. electric buses, hydrogen fuel, bio-diesel, etc. Mini buss are relatively easier to maintain than rail lines and infrastructres.

    7) mini buses offer tourists and locals better vantage and access to local businesses, especially attractions like seaside, food stalls, ethnic enclaves, cultural dusplays. These are easily visible through mini buses running at street level.

    i hope the Penang State planning authority has given some thoughts on the merits of mini buses in the local context.

    it is also my opinion that Penang’s transport network should include littoral options, i.e. coastal boat services from the tourist belt areas of Batu Ferringhi towards Batu Maung, with stops along popular / nautical destinations like Kilat beach, Straits Quay, Gurney Drive, Esplanade, Clan Jetties, Prangin Canal, Nautilus Bay, The Light, Hammer Bay, Jerejak, Queensbay, and the Airport.

    multi-modal with planned interchanges and integration is the key.

    notes on minibuses & trams:

    on a more specific note, i believe that minibuses are in many ways more practical than trams / trains, although nostalgia prompts support for revival of trams.

    it is unfortunate that minibuses have a bad rep because flawed policy and poor enforcement precipitated into chaotic anarchy.

    actual ride quality on either tram or minibus should be the same for passengers.

    advantages of minibuses vs trams / trains:

    1) electric minibuses can be built to look like trams to service and complement the heritage routes. minibuses can have open sides with running boards to facilitate boarding / disembarking just like trams.

    2) minibuses can run just about anywhere without the need for special tracks or power grid of unsightly web of cables which are also prone to damages e.g. tall vehicles, mobile cranes, chingay flags etc 🙂

    3) minibuses can be maintained as a pool with complete inter-operability, i.e. they don’t need special infrastructure. this means no monopoly, no tie-down contracts, etc.

    4) operational flexibility e.g. dispatch multiple buses to leap frog ahead to service peak areas / routes. trams / trains need to run sequentially and require resources to enable switching.

    5) rail tracks become ‘permanent’ feature on roads and may be hazardous to pedestrians, cyclists and other 2 wheelers.

    6) minibuses can utilize multitude of fuel, e.g. natural / liquefied gas, hydrogen, bio-fuel, electric, etc. since they carry own energy source they are not subject to service disruption due to unplanned power outages which will impact electric trams.

  2. I am incredibly disappointed with the Penang Forum. It runs an article entitled, “Penang Forum opposes road-based tunnel, serious reservations about highway-building spree.”
    So I left a reply on that article giving my point of view, that the undersea tunnel and expressways are more beneficial than detrimental to the people of Penang. So far, it hasn’t published my reply.
    For entities that claim to champion local democracy and the voice of the people, it’s very disappointing that when the people do speak, their voice is suppressed if it runs contrary to their established views. This is hypocritical of people who call for the liberation of local censorship but themselves practise it within their own arena.
    And how could something calling itself a “forum” take sides? A true forum is supposed to be a place where issues of public interest are discussed; on the issue of the Undersea Tunnel and Expressways, it should simply canvas public opinion and let everybody speak freely. If it states outright that it opposes or supports something, it has already formed an opinion before the public has its say. And when it suppresses contradictory views instead of listening to all respectfully, it’s even more sad. It’s like saying. “You don’t think; we’ll think on your behalf, just support us with both eyes shut.”
    If the Penang Forum is only interested in its own views, and say that it represents the people, “forum” is not the right name for it: it should instead be called the “Penang Rubber Stamp Association”.

    • The Penang Forum website is run by volunteers, and we do not have a full-time webmaster to moderate comments daily; hence the delay in approving your comments. Moreover, for some reason, your comments were automatically classified as spam and had to be retrieved from the spam folder. So it is not true that critical comments are censored.

      As for canvasing the public for their views, this has already been done by the consultants for the Penang Transport Masterplan who were hired by the state government. Close to 800 questionnaires were completed and received by the consultants. The consultants found that 82% of the public who bothered to respond preferred a balanced approach that prioritised public transport. So who is ignoring public views?

      The consultants also felt that a tunnel was not an immediate priority and need only be considered for 2030 and beyond. Why is the state government in a rush to bring this forward?

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