Penang to be accorded city status
After a three-year wait, Putrajaya has finally agreed to grant Penang an island-wide city status, according to executive council member in charge of Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Chow Kon Yeow.
However, despite meeting all the conditions set by the government, the state must wait for the Cabinet’s nod before making the announcement. “In the latest meeting with the Housing and Local Government Ministry this year, it was finally agreed that Penang be granted city status but this has to be approved by the Cabinet first,” said Chow.
He also said granting the city status meant council enforcement officers will be able to carry out their duties more effectively. “For an example, city council traffic enforcement personnel could issue summonses for speeding compared to municipal officers who could only issue parking fines.” Council traffic officers would also have the power to manage traffic conditions, which might alleviate many of Penang’s traffic problems.
After the Pakatan government took over in 2008, a decision was made in 2010 to have the status upgraded and an application was sent to the Local Government Ministry in August 2010. The process has been ongoing since.
George Town was awarded city status by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957, but this was not acknowledged by Putrajaya.
Penang Hill on fire
Bushfires broke out at several places on Penang Hill as the severe drought continues unabated. The fires at seven spots covered about 1ha of forest on the hills, and thick smoke could be seen billowing from as far as 10km away. Hikers were asked to vacate the hill while public entrances from the Penang Botanic Gardens, the Penang Municipal Park and Moongate leading up to the hill were closed to ensure that joggers would not interfere with fire-fighting efforts.
The bushfires also prompted the state’s first ever “water bombing” activity, using Bombardier planes piloted and provided by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) to put out the flames. “We are handicapped because there is not enough water resource up the hill,” said Penang Fire and Rescue Department chief Azmi Tamat. “Firemen had to carry the ‘jet shooter’ water bags in the form of backpacks to douse the flames,” he said, adding that a single bag could only carry eight litres of water. “Our firemen have been using fire-beaters to stop the flames but that could not stop the spread, hence our call to APMM for help.”
Father of modern medicine in China recognised
Penang pays tribute to its very own highly respected epidemiologist and plague fighter in China during the early 20th century, Dr Wu Lien-Teh, who was also the first Malaysian and top medical student at Cambridge where he obtained his PhD, as well as the first Malaysian to be nominated for a Nobel Prize for medicine in 1935.
The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Commemorative Symposium, hosted by the Penang Institute, was held from March 9-10 at E&O and Penang Medical College, where a bronze bust of Wu Lien- Teh, donated by the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, was also unveiled.
“Penang is indeed proud to be the home of numerous historical trailblazers,” said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during the official dinner of the commemorative symposium. “In Dr Wu Lien-Teh, we had a pioneering medical scientist and hero who saved countless lives,” he added, citing Wu as an inspiration to all.
Second Penang Bridge finally opens
After much anticipation, Penang’s second bridge was finally open to the public on March 1. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak officiated the opening and the bridge has been named Jambatan Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah after the Sultan of Kedah, the current Yang DiPertuan Agong.
Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said the new bridge, a milestone for the nation, is necessary for Penang. “Once opened, the new bridge is expected to ease traffic on the first bridge by 25%,” he said. “It is estimated that the bridge will see 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles using it daily in 10 years.”
The time required to cross the entire length of the new bridge is 20 minutes without any traffic jam. It is also the longest bridge in the world with High Damping Natural Rubber Bearing (HRDRB), which enables it to withstand earthquakes of up to over 7.5 on the Richter scale, and is the longest bridge in South- East Asia, spanning 24km (16.9km over water). It is also the first bridge in Malaysia to use electric vehicles for patrols.