Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has expressed regret that two businessmen who attended a meeting to oppose privatisation of the Penang port to an outsider have now gone back on their word.

NONELim said the 40 stakeholders at the July 10 meeting had unanimously agreed to the five resolutions opposing the port falling into the hands of Umno-linked tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary without any consultation with Penangites.

Witnesses at the meeting, including journalists, could testify that the group had discussed the issue and agreed with the five resolutions, which were prepared after obtaining the unanimous agreement of the group, he said.

Those present that night included members of the Malay, Chinese and Indian chambers of commerce and Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), top executives from free trade zones, logistics providers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters, shipping companies and agents, stevedores and workers' organisations.

Video clip of meeting played out

Lim then played a video clip of the group at the meeting for reporters at a press conference at Komtar today.

"There was clearly a consensus, with everybody agreeing to the resolutions that night. You have a right to change your mind but you cannot say you did not agree," Lim said, referring to the two businessmen.

"It is not fair to say that there was something political about the meeting because after the two said it, the BN used this to attack us. It is painting an impression that the stakeholders had agreed to the privatisation of the port."

NONELim was responding to a report in the New Straits Times yesterday, quoting North Malaysia Shipping Agents Association president Khoo Kay Huat and vice-president Ong Chiang Kheng, who spoke at a press conference in George Town on Wednesday.

In the report, Khoo was quoted as saying the association, which represents 65 shipping agencies in Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Perak, did not want to be "dragged into political games" over the privatisation of Penang port.

Ong, who also attended the meeting in Komtar, said the association was not in favour of certain terms in the resolutions, adding that it appeared as if there was a consensus on the resolutions among the stakeholders, but this was not true.

He said the association found that the resolutions had already been prepared and felt there was "a shade of political involvement" in them.

Malaysiakini was present at the meeting on the night of July 10 and if there had been any opposition to the resolutions adopted and signed, the members who attended did not express this.

The privatisation of Penang port has been hotly debated since state BN chief Teng Chang Yeow declared restoring Penang's free port status as one of the coalition's election pledges if it came back to power in the 13th general election.

This prompted the DAP to kick off a "Return the Port to Penangites" campaign.

BN also said no to privatisation
Teng, who is also Gerakan secretary-general, had also disagreed with the privatisation of the port and said a party delegation would meet the prime minister to express its opposition to the port privatisation.

Lim also said that Khoo and Ong were members of the 'Save Penang Port' steering committee formed that night, with Freight Forwarding Association representative Krishnan Chelliah appointed as the chairperson.

"I do not think it is correct for them to say they did not agree to the resolutions that night. It is not true and unfair," said Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general.

"They should say they have changed their mind. I can understand the pressure they must have been subjected to after the meeting," he added.

The next step for the steering committee now is to secure a meeting with the Finance Ministry - which oversees the issue of port privatisation - so that the members could convey the views of the stakeholders.

Lim also denied that the resolutions had been prepared before the stakeholders came to a decision to agree upon the matter, as Ong claimed.

"The resolutions were drafted after the meeting, after consent and agreement were sought from everyone," he added.