PROLIFERATION OF LIQUOR SHOPS IN PENANG’S LITTLE INDIA

The Consumers’ Association of Penang is shocked to find that there is a proliferation of liquor shops in the Little India area here in Penang. We strongly believe that liquor shops should not be allowed to set up in places with homes and offices.

We have received complaints about liquor shops opening up tables along the roadside to seat the people who patronize their shops. The tables that are opened up far exceed the parameters of their shops premises and encroach on the space of their neighbours (other businesses that have closed for the day).

Residents, owners of businesses and office workers in the Little India area have expressed their growing unease with the open air, happy hour party atmosphere that takes place once working hours are over. The display of unruly behaviour by patrons of these liquor shops make the area unsafe for those who live and work there.

Not just in the Little India area but even along the Chulia Street stretch we see many “bistro” type shops advertising discounts on beer and selling other hard liquor. The idea is that these shops set up with the intention of catering to the foreigners that come here for vacation and, more particularly, the foreign workers. However, we would like to remind the authorities that the physical and mental well-being of our local people is more important and should be given priority.

We should also note that these liquor shops are placed in close proximity to the Street of Harmony which consists of the St. George’s Church, Kuan Yin Temple, Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Kapitan Keling Mosque. These are all places of worship and people in the surrounding area should be behaving respectfully and decently, not drunken and unruly.

The license to operate a liquor shop is something that is issued by the Customs Department. Do they not check where the shop will be set up before issuing the license to sell liquor?

In some western countries, where drinking alcohol is the norm of their culture, people are not allowed to have an open container (can, bottle or glass) of alcoholic beverage in an open space or vehicle.   But it seems that in Malaysia anything goes. Hence, our local liquor shops are able to operate and open up tables along sidewalks unhindered.

On that note, even though our local council does not issue licenses for liquor shops, shouldn’t they do something about those tables obstructing the sidewalks and five-foot-ways that come before that?

All things considered, CAP asks that the liquor shops operating in the Little India area be shut down at once for the well-being of the residents and workers in the area. We do not want an incident like the “2013 Little India riot” in Singapore, where many of the rioters were intoxicated by alcohol, to happen in our Little India.

Letter to the Editor, 5 May 2017

The ‘Better Cheaper Faster Penang Transport Master Plan’

Press Conference by Penang Forum to launch the report & website of

The ‘Better Cheaper Faster Penang Transport Master Plan’

13 July 2016

WEBSITE: www.bettercheaperfaster.my

1.  The Penang Forum is pleased to launch our proposed ‘Better Cheaper Faster’ Penang Transport Master Plan and website.

This is an initiative by Penang’s civil society NGOs to provide a viable alternative to, as well as insightful analysis and review of, the RM40 billion plus transport master plan prepared by SRS Consortium for the Penang State Government.

(SRS, which stands for South Reclamation Scheme, is a joint-venture between Gamuda Berhad, Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd and Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd.)

2.      We are deeply alarmed by the apparent lack of clarity and transparency regarding the financial viability and immense financial risk that come with the projects under the SRS master plan, which comprises a mixture of LRT, monorail, tram (for George Town World Heritage Site only) and new road highway systems, each in different routes.

We must know in advance what kind of financial situation we are getting into before deciding on a project. A major reason for the financial failure of the Kuala Lumpur LRT and monorail projects is the poor or inaccurate information given to the government, preventing it from making the correct decisions.

The LRT system is not only more expensive to build, but costs 2 to 3 times more to operate and maintain compared to trams. We are in the dark on whether SRS’s proposal provides any detailed financial projections and options of different alternative modes of public transport – LRT, monorail, tram and BRT – to choose from.
The Penang state government has the responsibility to provide the public such information before committing the state to such major liabilities.

3.      We note that the LRT and Monorail systems in Kuala Lumpur are experiencing shortfall in ridership.

In KL both LRT companies ran into financial difficulties and could not service their debts. The federal government had to issue RM4.5 billion in bonds for the debts of these two companies while the KL Monorail was provided with a RM300 million soft loan. In November 2001, the Ministry of Finance purchased the outstanding debts of the two LRT companies totalling RM5.5 billion via another bond issue.

4.      There are obvious concerns on the lack of convincing and effective contingency measures in case the projects proposed by SRS encounter financial setbacks.

Penang state’s budgeted revenue in 2016 is RM700 million. Assuming the revenue doubles by 2023, RM126 million deficit on this one LRT line is about 10% of the state budget. What about the financial costs of all the other LRT, monorail, tram, BRT and highways?

What if the state is unable to finance the deficit and no financial help from the federal government is forthcoming? Will the projects be stopped? Who will bail out the projects?

Is the Penang State Government state able to afford to such high deficits? Will they impair the financial stability of the state?

5.      The modern tram and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) based public transport system are both cheaper to build and cheaper to operate and maintain.

Interviews with two of the largest tram manufacturers in the world confirmed average construction costs including civil works, rolling stock and signalling plus communication systems range from Euro 18 -25 million (RM83 – RM115) per kilometre – far less than what would cost for LRT and monorail under the SRS proposal.

For example, our calculations show that for the George Town-Bayan Lepas International Airport route, the construction cost per km for a tram system would come up to RM80 million compared to RM220 million for an LRT system.  The total construction cost for the same route would be RM1.6 billion for the tram and RM4.4 billion for the LRT. The carrying capacity (PPDP – passengers per hour per direction) for the tram would be between 7, 000 and 20,000 riders compared to 18,500 for the LRT. And the annual operating and maintenance cost for the tram would be RM67 million, compared to RM170 million for the LRT.

Accordingly, the tram would see a projected surplus of RM20.5 million and the LRT would face a deficit of –RM82.5 million for the George Town- Bayan Lepas
International Airport route if ridership is at 25 million per year.

6. Download the report, including the Executive Summary and a soft copy of this document at:

 

www.bettercheaperfaster.my/#!report/wzf9s

English version:
http://media.wix.com/ugd/d78064_bc3a440f80c3483b840791c0771b72c7.pdf

Bahasa version:
http://media.wix.com/ugd/d78064_8806b8ff881d4bd29cf80a508634974e.pdf

Mandarin version:
http://media.wix.com/ugd/d78064_00e23017e65e4e52a750307f9329610e.pdf

____________________________________________________________

The Penang Forum is a 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 major events which bring 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.

Petition to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for the “Better Cheaper Faster Penang Transport Masyer Plan”. Sign HERE.

Our Broadband Performance is a Mockery

Internet is an essential utility in this information age. How can Malaysia aspire to achieve developed status when our broadband Internet speeds seem to be grinding to a halt half the time?

In Georgetown, Penang, from 27 April to 6 May, Streamyx was running around 5% of the advertised speed. For the 4Mbps package the speed dropped to around 100 to 200 Kbps and for the IMbps package the speed dropped to 60Kbps. That was as bad as using a dial-up Internet connection. Currently the speed has gone up to near maximum but is very unstable.

This is not the first time that we experienced such poor service from TMNet over a prolonged period. Between March and June of 2013 the speed was down to about 30% to 50% most of the time.

Under such conditions nothing useful can be done on the Internet. Business organizations, research centres and universities download and upload very large files on a regular basis. Their ability to collaborate with other centres overseas will be hampered severely unless they have reliable high-speed Internet.

Most people find it convenient to book airline tickets online and do Web check-in. The government also has been advocating e-government and Internet banking. Use of cheques is being discouraged with higher service charges to be imposed from next year. However, subscribers take enormous risks when carrying out such transactions while the Internet speed is either very low or unstable.

Subscribers should be provided speeds of at least 80% of the advertised package speed for at least 90% of the time, otherwise they deserve to be given rebates. Telcos should not bush off their poor service under the so called “best effort” euphemism. After all, broadband packages other than entry-level packages are not cheap in Malaysia, even though there is a choice of a few telcos. They offer package speeds from 256Kbps up to 30Mpbs.

Telemarketers for TMNet are nudging subscribers to upgrade their Streamyx packages to higher speeds. If the subscribers using current package find it unsatisfactory, why should they opt for packages with higher speeds and pay more? What is the guarantee that the service will be better under the new package? An explanation is needed from TMNet.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Corporation to ensure that telcos provide reasonable and stable broadband speeds. Nobody should feel shortchanged and should be able carry out their online transactions confidently and safely.

Letter to the Editor – 15 May 2014

Appalling Ferry Services in Marudi

Residents in Marudi are fuming over the appalling ferry services provided by a private contractor. Since 2005, Marudi residents and those who regularly travel on land to Marudi have had to settle for poor ferry services and pay exorbitant rates for a mere 2 minute crossing over two rivers.

There is 1 ferry each that ply between Sungai Baram (Baram River) and Sungai Bakong (Bakong River). Those travelling to and from Marudi and Miri will need to use the ferry services twice and pay twice.

The minimum amount charged per crossing is RM3 for motorcycles. Cars and trucks will be charged RM15 while a 3-tonne lorry will be charged RM100.  Lorries above 3 tonnes will be charged about RM150 or more.  Hence, a typical ride for a return trip between Marudi and Miri would be RM60.00 in a car.

Despite such exorbitant charges, the service is far from satisfactory. In the first place, both ferries are old and it is believed that the one currently operating in Baram was previously used in Kuala Belait in Brunei before the bridge was built.  At most, each ferry can carry about 7 regular sized vehicles. Sometimes the ferries can only carry 1 large vehicle across. Further, there are no safety features on the ferries in the event there is an accident. People cross at their own risk daily.

During festivals, the waiting period to cross both rivers can go up to 2 hours or more. Residents have complained that these ferries experience frequent breakdowns including the non-working of the hydraulic system that operates the landing ramp. As a result, the ramps do not land evenly on the ground when the ferries dock. This in fact is dangerous for vehicles to get out because the ramps are wet and slippery.

Residents of Marudi, who travel by land, are at the mercy of the ferry operator and have no choice but to pay the arbitrary charges.

SAM (Sahabat Alam Malaysia) also questions whether the ferry operator has been issued a license by the authorities to operate both these ferries. If so, the ferries would have to be regularly serviced, maintained and installed with proper safety features. These are sorely lacking.  

SAM urgently calls on the Ministry of Transport and the Sarawak State Government to revamp this ferry service and allow for a fresh tender to be opened up. The ferries must be run professionally and efficiently taking into account the lives of the people who use these ferries on a daily basis. These ferries must be equipped with safety features and must be regulated by the State. The people should also not be made to incur such high charges for what is supposed to be a mode of public transport. The onus and duty is on the State to ensure that public monies are utilised properly to benefit the people. The ferry service should be a benefit to the people not a burden. Alternatively, the Government should speed up the construction of the bridge at Sg Bakong and further construct a bridge across Sg Baram to ease the travel and eliminate the exorbitant ferry rides.

Press Statement – 26 February 2014

Why CAP is against the One-Way Traffic System in Pulau Tikus

The new traffic system in Pulau Tikus in Penang is a retrogressive measure as it places emphasis on moving cars at the expense of the community, pedestrians, cyclists and the disabled.

Pulau Tikus is an integrated community of mixed commercial, office, institutional, religious, residential and educational uses. It is a unique neighbourhood for good food, shopping and marketing with all the modern conveniences of the post office and banks plus places of worship – all within walking and cycling distances.

But this community runs the risk of being segregated and destroyed by wide one-way streets which are a safety threat to pedestrians and the disabled (besides the handicapped, and including families with children, old folks, shoppers with numerous bags – generally all who have less mobility). Crossing the wide streets with fast moving cars have become a nightmare for them. The conversion of traffic to a one-way system is like bringing a high-speed highway into a neighbourhood.

The effect of wide one-way streets is clearly demonstrated by how different is the business on the two sides of Penang Road. One side is teeming with people while the other side is bare. Wide roads with especially fast traffic simply deter people from crossing them, thus segregating the community.

If there is to be a change in the traffic system, the authorities should seriously think about pedestrianisation and building segregated bicycle paths in Pulau Tikus. It will integrate and improve the community by providing easier accessibility. It will also reduce accidents and air pollution in the area. It will also improve the health of the residents by facilitating cycling and walking into the daily ritual of the residents. Traffic should in fact be slowed down in the area. Traffic-calming designs should be incorporated into the road system there.

The one-way system has also reduced the accessibility of buses to the passengers. The buses now move up Kelawei Road and down along Burmah Road, making it most difficult for the the elderly and shoppers (with lots of bags) at Pulau Tikus market to walk long distances, crossing dangerous one-way streets to catch the buses.

We should be planning more for the residents and the community. Accessibility is not about moving cars, but is about moving people. Giving priority to moving cars is wrong and many countries are adopting measures to reduce the numbers and speed of cars to reduce congestion and accidents.

The One-Way Traffic System in Pulau Tikus speeds up the cars and endangers pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. We should be doing the reverse, reduce the speed and number of of cars and protect the other vulnerable road users. Roads are for all users, not only cars.

We call on the authorities to revert to the 2-way system; introduce segregated bicycle lanes and bicycle paths; and design traffic-calming measures in the Pulau Tikus area.

Press Release – 8 November 2013