Friday, April 24, 2009

TBRA moves into second gear

The new committee should now be moving into second gear. We reproduce here the outgoing chairperson's speech:


Three years ago, five people got together when they found out they shared similar concerns on what was happening in their neighbourhood. They discussed about the unsightly dumping of earth and rocks in the sea off Tanjong Bunga Bay which involved questionable approvals from the authorities, the cutting of hill slopes and clearing of forests near water catchment areas for high density housing developments, mushrooming of over 40 storey high buildings on the sea front, the poor public transport facilities and the lack of transparency in governance.

They decided that they needed a platform and a channel to voice their concerns to the government and to form a pressure group. TBRA was thus born with a vision ”to make Tanjong Bunga a green and restful town with well designed amenities and facilities.”

When we applied to the Registrar of Societies to register TBRA, we found out that residents’ associations in general were formed usually in condominium and apartments, taking upon the role of management committees. Such RAs are limited to looking after the welfare of the condominium and apartment residents and promoting neighbourliness, i.e. be good and responsible residents.

The circumstances in which TBRA was founded demanded a different sort of mission from other RAs. Furthermore the membership of TBRA was open to all property owners and residents in the town of Tanjong Bunga with the postcode 11200. This in a way is quite ‘ground-breaking’ for Penang although similar RAs can be found in Petaling jaya and Subang Jaya in Selangor.

Although one can say that the population in Tanjong Bunga is relatively middle-class, there are also pockets of lower-income groups. All have equal access to the public facilities and services which TBRA wants to be upgraded, irrespective of race, religion or socio-economic status. At the same time while we respect the need for a balance of public space, private space and shared space, we must share a common vision and mission. TBRA’s activities in the past three years have been guided by its stated mission.

Back to the group who led the founding of the Association, we only had a handful of members in the pro-tem committee. Happily there were enough interest and support from friends and neighbours at the start to get the Association officially registered and making its presence and agenda known to the government authorities and the Municipal Council. All were committed to our mission and volunteered their time and their homes for meetings.
A highly successful public forum held in July 2006 started a series of engagements with the State and Municipal authorities and continues till today.


The past year has been especially challenging for TBRA as it had to deal with a totally new government and in particular with a new Chief Minister who had no clue what TBRA’s concerns were even though many in Tanjong Bunga had voted and supported his party! This was evident in our meeting with him last May (2008).

However I am pleased to report that our newly elected State Legislative Assembly representative for Tanjong Bunga, YB Teh Yee Cheu, has been most responsive to our concerns and has supported our causes. YB Teh has attended a number of our committee meetings and was responsible for initiating a Sustainable Development Workshop held at Paradise Sandy Beach Hotel last April, soon after the March General Elections. To his credit, I would say that no other Assemblyman in this country had worked as swiftly as he has done in working with his constituents.

Among the main recommendations that TBRA has submitted to the State Government is the need for setting up a planning commission with representations from NGOs and to hold consultations with residents’ associations in the drafting of local plans. TBRA has noted that the State Planning Committee had not responded or accepted any of its recommendations in the memorandum on the State Structure Plan and the MPPP continues to allow environmental degradation, hill-cutting and high-rise buildings on beachfronts.

TBRA has also pointed out to the Chief Minister, State Exco members and the State Legal Advisor, the ambiguity in the State Structure Plan which omitted the gazetted boundary of Tanjong Bunga from the designated ‘Secondary Development Corridor’. This has major implications on the development density that is permitted within Tanjong Bunga as the interpretation by the State government means that Tanjong Bunga will have the same high densities as George Town with no control on hill-side development.

Incidentally, TBRA has not received any official reply to our lawyer’ s letter to the State Town and Country Planning Department to clarify this serious omission in the State Structure Plan. Of course we can always count on the standard reply that the problem was created by the previous government but I am afraid that we are now being faced with Conspiracy, Ambiguity and Tidakapathy!

TBRA supported the NGO’s nominations for the appointment of Municipal Councillors, in particular the nomination by Women’s Action Council, Ms. Lim Kah Cheng and Aliran’s Prof. Francis Loh, who were subsequently appointed as MPPP’s Councillors. TBRA has also submitted its proposals for Tanjong Bunga to be included in the Local Plan through YB Teh and through Municipal Councillor Ms. Lim.

In the past year TBRA has represented affected residents and resident committees in Diamond Villa, Chee Seng Gardens and Solok Tan Jit Seng in meeting with elected representatives and government departments like JKR, MPPP and holding press conferences to protest against hill-cutting. In particular I would like to thank our Vice-Chairperson and committee members involved for their efforts in The ‘Tea Party’ and ‘Coffee Party’ organised by these resident committees as well as the petition against hill-slope development campaign. As a strategy in raising public awareness in these issues, these demonstrations have been successful as they were widely reported in the press and the new media.

As Chairman, I have also represented TBRA in lending support to other causes like the PGCC forum and the Transport Planning Committee. Two particular projects that I think TBRA should be proud of is the Hill Top Park on Pearl Hill that was launched in April, and the setting up of a signboard to demarcate the official boundary of the Town of Tanjong Bunga. These two projects were initiated with the support of YB Teh, and I hope the future committee will see to its successful completion.

For the information of members, I think a brief background to these two projects are necessary. The summit of Pearl Hill has been designated a public open space when the subdivision of the entire Pearl Hill was approved by the State more than twenty years ago. However no action was taken by the MPPP to actually develop the open space as a park and in fact there are now squatters on this public land which was intended for the use of Tanjong Bunga residents. TBRA brought this up at a meeting with YB Teh and has submitted a concept paper for its development as a hill-top park with a proposed budget.

The signboard project which is proposed in front of the junction of Tanjong Bunga Road and Tanjong Park, next to Tanjong Bunga Hotel is aimed at establishing the official boundary of the Town of Tanjong Bunga, which the State Structure Plan has ambiguously and erroneously stated as from Mar Vista resort.


In conclusion, I wish to thank all the Committee members who have sacrificed their family and working time and for their commitment to the mission that we have set for TBRA and most of all for putting community interests above self. I should also mention that considering the annual membership fees that we collect are really minimal, TBRA has been prudent enough not to spend much, if not any, money from its funds. This is possible only through the generosity of members who had contributed in cash and kind for specific events.

It is with the energy and support of members and the Committee, that TBRA has been able to achieve what I consider as remarkable and ground-breaking results. As chairperson, I humbly accept responsibility for all shortcomings, and in particular for my occasional long absences from Penang due to work. However I have been able to touch base through emails. I foresee more challenges ahead for TBRA as development pressure takes its toll on the quality of life in Tanjong Bunga. Only if you speak up will you be heard. Only if you are prepared to act will you see results.

I wish you all the best. Thank you.

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