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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Don't fear corporatisation of Penang Gardens, says exco



Penangites have nothing to fear as the enactment to corporatise the 130-year-old Botanic Gardens in the state provides legal measurements for it to be preserved and protected from damage due to development projects, according to state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo.
He said the earlier enactment under the previous BN government in Penang did not provide for such measures.
Jagdeep pointed out that the legislation governing the gardens from 1923 to 2005, the Penang Waterfall Gardens Enactment, "failed to comprehensively" set out the parameters in terms of protecting, preserving, enhancing, upgrading and bettering the site.
"If we do not preserve the gardens, we will be breaching the current Act... That was not the position in the previous enactment," Jagdeep told reporters at a press conference in the gardens today.
"You must understand what the position was before, we are now reinforcing the need to preserve, protect, enhance and upgrade the garden. Now it is legally provided for," he added.
Jagdeep was responding to civil society groups and assemblypersons like PKR Kebun Bunga rep Cheah Kah Peng who had raised concerns after the bill was tabled at the Penang State Legislative Assembly on Nov 10.
Jagdeep said the Act will allow the state to strive towards making the Botanic Gardens a Unesco World Heritage Site.


On the lack of public consultation, Jagdeep said DAP Pulau Tikus assemblyperson Yap Soo Huey (photo), as a member of the committee for the Special Area Plan for Botanical Gardens which sat in 2012, has confirmed that 110 people from various groups have given their inputs.
These included Friends of the Botanical Gardens Society, Chung Ling Secondary School PIBG, St Xavier Institution former scouts, Consumer Association of Penang, Malaysian Nature Society.
In relations to fees being possibly collected for entry into the Gardens, Jagdeep said the previous enactment, after its revision in 2005, stipulated that fees could be charged.
Jagdeep also denied that several assemblypersons were not given enough time to read the bill before it was tabled.
"The state assembly standing order states that any bill must be on the elected reps table 10 days before it is tabled, and we have complied with that," Jagdeep insisted.
Accompanying Jagdeep at the press conference was the curator of the Penang Botanic Gardens Saw Leng Guan (photo).


Saw said the objectives of the Act is very clear, as it emphasises on the membership of the corporatisation.
The board will comprise the chief minister, the state secretary, treasurer, legal advisor and 20 other people, including a minimum of two with botany expertise.
"This big pool of people will sit as the governing body of the corporation.
"If you have a pool of 20 people, you can rest assured that this garden will not go off tangent."
Asked whether the state will approve a cable car project linking the gardens to the youth park, Saw declined to comment.
The project was previously mooted by a private company during the former Gerakan-led government.
Meanwhile, Saw said it was necessary to corporatise the garden so it will have the power to hire or fire people to ensure that expertise is retained and harnessed as effectively as possible.
"Currently, staff who have been trained are transferred out every five years, and the management cannot retain their expertise," said Saw who served 33 years in Forest Reserve Institute of Malaysia.
On a related note, the Penang government will sign a memorandum of understanding with Singapore Botanical Gardens in January.
Describing it as an achievement, Jagdeep said Singapore will assist Penang to gain more expertise to improve the gardens.
"We certainly can learn a lot from them as Singapore is already an inscribed Unesco world heritage site," he said, adding that the island city's curator will be invited to Penang to sign the MoU.- Mkini

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