The idea for the Forum Peduli Rakyat came from something that is most lacking in our society today, ie the ability of people to participate in public decisions.
The forum was a collective effort, organised by Penang Forum and individuals, to provide an open platform for citizens to articulate their concerns so that anyone could participate regardless of affiliations.
Penang Forum held a press conference on 12 February to notify members of the public about the event. And just a day before the press conference (11 February), personal invitations were emailed to 40 state assembly members and about 10 MPs in Penang to attend the forum as well
The day of the forum saw the hall in Dewan Sri Pinang packed with about 200 participants. Out of about 20 speakers, only five were from Penang Forum. Speakers were given five minutes each to present their respective cases with time allocated for a question-and-answer session.
The topics were wide ranging – water management in Penang, plastic waste in Sungai Petani, sand mining in Perak, aquaculture and the destruction of mangroves in Ayer Tawar, the overcrowding of hostels for foreign workers, human trafficking, Tolak Tambak (Penang rejects reclamation), assessment rate hikes, affordable housing, Save Mount Erskine Road, cukai pintu, climate change, food waste, the Pan Island Link highway, public transport shortcomings, the debt arising from the Penang transport proposal, flood vulnerability in Penang, the anti-reclamation campaign against the Butterworth Waterfront project, current agricultural problems, hill-slope risks, the threat to marine mammals and deforestation.
The core of this forum was anchored on the notion of democracy, ie to have a platform for different opinions to be shared and heard on the state government’s development plans as well as existing and future policies.
While efforts had been made to include the participation of appointed and elected officials in the forum, it was given unsavoury treatment. The 10 elected state assembly members told the press: “Invitations to the forum seem to be more of a publicity stunt in order to trap and tarnish the Penang state government.”
Regardless, the inaugural Forum Peduli Rakyat 2020 was a success, and participants shared that they had gained some valuable insights into what was happening in Penang.
Many said there was a need to rethink what form of development was truly sustainable for Penang – and challenge the current dogmatic but ambiguous definition of development that only hurts Penang and its people.
- Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng, WaterWatch Penang – water management challenges in Penang
- Tneoh Shen Jen, adviser, Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar (PTAS) – environmental damage from recycling of imported waste in Sungai Petani
- Zikrullah Ismail, Pertubuhan Warisan Tanah dan Teroka Bandar (Teroka) – foreign workers hostels in southern Penang Island
- James Lochhead, Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign – Aspire Penang
- Nazri Ahmad, Penang Fisherfolk’s Association – Tolak Tambak/Penang rejects southern reclamation
- Kader Abdul, Respons Rakyat app – make yourself heard
- Lee KN, president, Penang Ratepayers Association – the assessment rate hikes
- Kartik, Jaringan Perumahan – housing affordability
- Shirlyne Byrne, resident – Save Mount Erskine Road
- Nelson Phang – cukai pintu
- Ahmad Izzudin, Klima Action Utara Malaysia – climate emergency
- Calvin Chan, Green Hero – tackling food waste
- Eric Cheah – Pan-Island Link highway
- Zulfikar Aziz, Penang Public Transport Users Association (PeTua) – public transport
- Lim Mah Hui – Penang Transport Masterplan: Drowning Penangites in debt
- Kam Suan Pheng, Penang Hills Watch – Flood vulnerability in Penang
- Nur Munira Azman, Shorebirds Peninsular Malaysia Project/Malaysian Nature Society – aquaculture zone at Teluk Ayer Tawar coast
- Mazlan Abdul, Penang Fisherfolks Association, Seberang Perai area, Bagan Ajam unit – Campaign against Butterworth Waterfront reclamation
- Rexy Prakash Chacko, Penang Hills Watch – hill-slope risks
- Sophine Tann, vice-president 2, Peka Malaysia – final solutions?