Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng has called on Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong to direct both the Penang Port Commission (PPC) and Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) to stop preparations to terminate the iconic Penang ferry service.
In a statement today, Lim asked Wee to instruct the two bodies to instead facilitate the immediate continuation of the service as normal on Jan 1 next year.
This came after PPSB CEO Sasedharan Vasudevan first announced that the long-time ferry service would be discontinued on Dec 31.
"Ever since Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz acceded to my request in Parliament on Dec 17 to continue the 126-year-old ferry service, there has been an unholy silence from Wee, PPC and PPSB over whether the service will continue as instructed," Lim said.
The former Penang chief minister added that he and former transport minister Anthony Loke had never proposed to end the ferry service, as alluded by Wee in a Facebook post.
Lim also said he was not against the introduction of catamarans but it should be run in parallel with the ferry service.
Lim Guan Eng telah menuduh kerajaan PN mengkhianati Pulau Pinang dan tiada belas kasihan berhubung penamatan...
The former finance minister urged Wee to show proof that he had made the decision to terminate and replace the ferry service with catamarans.
"Zafrul had also confirmed that I had placed a condition in writing when I was finance minister for the Penang ferry service to be continued in exchange for a RM30 million cash incentive payment to PPSB."
He claimed that this contrasted with Wee and PPC chairperson Tan Teck Cheng who decided to terminate the ferry service outright without any sentiment for its unique historic and heritage value.
"Tan even said that the decision to terminate it was driven by statistics and economics, rather than emotions or politics," Lim added.
Saying that Penangites have been betrayed over the issue, he asked if the Transport Ministry could legally ignore the condition to continue the ferry service imposed by the Finance Ministry, with the RM30 million funding to PPSB.
The amount was for PPSB to take over the Penang ferry service.
Earlier in the week, Sasedharan told The Star that all systems were in place for the takeover and three passenger-only waterbuses would ply the waters.
He said most of the existing ferries, which could carry both vehicles and passengers, were more than 40 years old and were costly to maintain.
“The present fleet of ferries is ageing and it’s difficult to find replacement spare parts. That is why we will be using waterbuses," he was reported as saying.