PENANG, 27 Nov 2008: The Tanjong Division Gerakan Youth today lodged a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) over what it claimed was the Penang government’s hasty approval of a high-rise project in the World Heritage Site buffer zone in George Town, without the knowledge of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.
The division youth wing’s head, H’ng Khoon Leng, in his written report to the Penang ACA director Latifah Md Yatim, sought an investigation into whether there had been abuse of authority by certain quarters in the approval of the 23-storey condominium project by the Low Yat Group. It said the approval was just days before Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) declared George Town, along with Malacca, a World Heritage Site in July 2008.
He also expressed regret that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had indicated, based on news reports of his statement yesterday, that he was prepared to forgo the three hotel projects approved earlier for the buffer zone if the condominium project had to be cancelled.
According to H’ng, Lim had said “if the condominium project is not allowed, then all the other three projects should not be allowed either. It is all or nothing”.
The other three projects are the Rice Miller Boutique Hotel, the Boustead Royale Bintang Hotel and an extension of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, all of which were approved by the Gerakan-led state planning committee in early 2007.
The Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry has given the Penang government one month from 24 Nov to review the projects in the George Town buffer zone, in a move to prevent Unesco’s withdrawal of the city’s World Heritage Site status.
Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had said he had asked the state government to do several things in the one month, including asking the contractors to ensure that the construction did not have any adverse impact on the site.
A World Heritage Site buffer zone is an area around the site which has been identified and is meant to protect the visual setting of the site. Any consideration of development proposals within the buffer zone will have to take into account their impact on the site.
The award of the World Heritage Site status to George Town and Malacca is inter-linked, such that any action in either city which results in the withdrawal of the status would automatically affect the other as well. — Bernama