There has been a lot of heated debate on the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), as well as my resignation from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) over the past few days.
Notably, I have witnessed several personal attacks, particularly from MBPP Councillors Chris Lee and Syerleena Abdul Rashid, who both failed to provide straight answers to straight questions regarding the transparency of the PTMP. Instead, I was told to grow up, being labelled as naive, malicious and destructive for speaking out against the PTMP.
On a personal level, I totally understand and do not blame the actions taken by both Chris Lee and Syerleena Abdul Rashid for all the personal attacks towards me. In order to fulfil their political ambitions to be future ADUNs and MPs, I completely understand that they have no choice but to follow orders from above and write these press statements The battle to save Malaysia is bigger than all of us & DAP leaders hit back at Roger Teoh in an attempt to demonise my intentions in speaking out the truth on the PTMP.
Regardless of all these personal attacks, I would like to praise both MBPP councillors Chris Lee and Syerleena Abdul Rashid for their hard work in resolving constituency issues and they will always earn my utmost respect for this. I hope they both will succeed in achieving their dreams to become future lawmakers in the country. However, most importantly, do not lose your mind and conscience over power.
In order to foster a positive environment on mature politics, it is extremely important for a government, especially the DAP, which was once a beacon of hope for a better Malaysia to set a good example in terms of promoting healthy debates with supportive evidence while discouraging personal attacks.
Sadly, we have now clearly witnessed that the Penang State Government chooses to take on the latter option of personal attacks in the media, similar to what I have faced when these issues were raised internally.
While the opposition has been pressing the federal government to promote more free speech, isn’t the Penang State Government a hypocrite by resorting to personal attacks to dismiss arguments of its critics?
Of course, it is an unspoken truth that the federal government has been underperforming in the past 50 years. However, does this allow the opposition to be complacent and settle just to be slightly better than them?
Perhaps the lack of a viable alternative to the DAP has led to the party to a downward spiral, where voters have no choice but to vote for a party of lesser evil. Perhaps too that I have been living in the United Kingdom bubble for too long, watching too much Westminster politics where all policies are properly scrutinised and debated constructively.
On a whole as a society, shouldn’t we aim to achieve this positive mentality by practicing mature politics through constructive debate? At the end of the day, every government that exist in this world is not perfect and will not be exempted from criticism to improve for the better of the people.
Nevertheless, I have been utterly disgusted and disappointed by what I witnessed by the Penang State Government in the handling of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). It appears that the Penang State Government has been reluctant to provide straight answers to straight questions even in the media, similar to what happened during internal debates.
Nevertheless, in summary, the following key questions must be answered by the Penang State Government to provide a clear picture to all Penangites regarding the PTMP:
- Has proper cost-benefit analysis using econometric techniques been done to compare the net benefits between different Transport Master Plans?
- Will an independent transport modeller or auditing firm be appointed by the Penang State Government to properly scrutinise the highly suspicious ridership forecast results?
- Will these results (Feasibility studies, Ridership Forecasts & Cost-Benefit Analysis) then be uploaded on a public domain similar to the London Airport Expansion Airports Commission: Final Report for the scrutiny of Penangites?
- By constructing more highways and the expected increase in car usage, how does the Penang State Government plan to address parking limitations in the already limited, dense, expensive land available around urban centres in Penang?
- What measures will be taken by the Penang State Government to achieve a 40% public transit modal share target by 2030 when statistical modelling Quantifying the consequences of the PTMP clearly shows a deterioration of public transit usage based on current PTMP projections?
At the end of the day, speaking out the truth was indeed a trade-off between burning bridges and doing the right thing morally. It was indeed a difficult decision to make. However, this issue has gone beyond my principles, and I believe that Penangites deserve the right to know the truth on the shenanigans of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
ROGER TEOH is a postgraduate student studying for a PhD at the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London. -FMT