MELAKA, Nov 17 — Incumbent chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali said today that the Melaka waterfront economic zone (M-WEZ) was necessary to propel the state’s economy and could be executed well if his Barisan Nasional coalition were given the mandate.
In a press conference today, the BN candidate aiming to return as CM said the project would put Melaka on par with other developed states such as Penang and countries such as Singapore.
“So, why the fuss on this now? I want Melaka to be like Penang or Singapore.
“If you want to compare us to Penang and Singapore, we are about the same size but why are they more developed than us? Singapore still takes water from Johor, Penang still takes water from Kedah, are there any mining activities there, are there any logging activities there? None, but why are they more developed than us?
“For Melaka, we have the Strait of Melaka there with thousands of ships passing through; why are we not taking the opportunity?
“I do not want Melaka just to be a weekend destination. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, there are people here but not on other days, until when will this be the case?
“This development will be our legacy to our children. We must think ahead about how we are supposed to develop this state,” he said.
Sulaiman also briefly explained that M-WEZ is not new and earlier reiterations of land reclamation projects have existed since the time of Melaka’s fourth chief minister, the late Datuk Setia Abdul Ghani Ali, who passed away in 2004.
Sulaiman said he has consolidated all planning and development means under M-WEZ corporation that is also functioning to provide proper oversight.
“Up to today, the area is about 11,000 acres, with over 56 concessions given for land reclamation work. Up to today only 3,000 are reclaimed and only 300 acres are developed.
“So, to me M-WEZ it’s not new, there was a previous chief minister who approved it but there was no proper planning and coordination.
“How to build, how to reclaim with no blueprint? So, until when do we have to wait, another 10, 20 years?
“That is why I made a new policy to rebrand it as M-WEZ and established an enactment for a corporate body similar to Putrajaya Corporation so there are people managing it,” he said.
When asked about fishing communities’ concern that the M-WEZ areas would hurt their livelihoods, Sulaiman said the economic zone will also include proper amenities and opportunities for them.
“I’m not reclaiming land until Indonesia, only 1.5 kilometres. We will even provide even better jetties for them,” he said, reiterating that there is nothing new about the project.
M-WEZ has become a hot button issue among candidates here in the ongoing Melaka state polls.
PH state chairman Adly Zahari has dismissed the M-WEZ as not feasible because affected areas, some 20KM of coastal lands, were vital for fishing and livestock activities.
Melaka Perikatan Nasional chief Datuk Mohd Rafiq Naizamohideen had also stated that the coalition would review the project should it get the mandate to govern the state.