Posted by SM Maulana
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
TOMORROW marks the 100th day of the new state government, led by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. How has Penang fared and where’s the direction?
NEW STRAITS TIMES
The DAP-Parti Keadilan Rakyat state government has been basking in glory and is still in high spirits since taking over Penang after the March 8 elections.
And who can blame the opposition pact for its joy.
It has after all been relatively smooth sailing for the partners.
The only foe they will face in the state legislative assembly are 11 Umno representatives, who are still coming to terms with being the opposition. Gerakan, the MCA and MIC have all been reduced to playing bit roles now that they are completely out of the assembly.
Unlike some other Pakatan Rakyat and even Barisan Nasional-held states, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng could not have asked for a better start when his predecessor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon handed over power without any drama once the election results were known.
That there is anticipation of a better Penang since the new state government was formed is undeniable. The people have been closely scrutinising developments since the two opposition parties took over.
Realising the high expectations of an electorate that had been so riled with the previous administration, Lim’s administration started off by trying to discredit what Gerakan had done in the 18 years it was in power.
He pulled no punches in attacking Koh’s administration, starting off with alleged land scams, which Lim claimed had cost the state millions of ringgit in losses, then moving to the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project, which the state government revealed had never been approved.
Even the wives of former assemblymen were not spared when they were accused of not following the correct procedures in dissolving Pertubuhan Bunga Tanjung and transferring RM350,000 from its coffers into the account of the Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti).
The attacks initially generated much excitement among the people ever eager to digest juicy news, but the accusations and counter response from Koh’s side reached a point where people are beginning to question the point of it all.
Political observers question the motive of bringing up the issues over and over again. Interestingly, the state has not lodged a single report to back its allegations of abuse or criminal breach of trust.
“It is time the state government get on with governing Penang and taking it to greater heights instead of harping on past events,” a long-time resident, Pravind Balram, said.
He said the state government should lodge reports with relevant agencies like the Anti-Corruption Agency instead of continuously bringing the matter up in the press and issuing threats to former elected representatives.
However, it has to be noted that the state government, mindful that it is being watched closely, has initiated reforms by introducing several firsts.
The appointment of an Indian deputy chief minister in Professor Dr P. Ramasamy has been well received.
Lim has also been highlighting his non-racial, non-religious approach by attending religious functions of all races, including the recent state-level Maulidur Rasul celebrations.
These moves and Lim’s constant mantra that the state government was committed to doing things the unconventional way based on its principles of competency, accountability and transparency have certainly won him much admiration.
Even Muslim non-governmental organisations have expressed support for the state government’s call for transparency in implementing the New Economic Policy.
Other popular measures include a directive barring DAP elected representatives from applying for state land, a one-off waiver of summonses and compound notices for illegal hawking and traffic offences, cancellation of orders for new cars for state executive council members and the establishment of an inter-religious goodwill council.
However, the latest move to allow for the conversion of leasehold land to freehold status has won the state government its greatest praise from all quarters.
Even its staunchest critics have admitted that it is going to be difficult for BN to unseat the opposition pact if it continues to introduce such people-friendly policies.