The general elections held on March 8 brought about the ouster of the Barisan Nasional state government in Penang. BN fell into the perennial trap of becoming too high-and-mighty after a long stint in power. The resounding defeat of BN opened the way for Lim Guan Eng to take over but Guan Eng was clearly unprepared to govern. Still, Penangites have very high expectations that Guan Eng will preside over a government that will be more people-centric.
However, this has not been the case.
One problem after another has cropped up the latest being Penang risking its Unesco World Heritage Site status following the approval of high-rise buildings with classified areas.
Guan Eng likes to project a pro-investor, business-friendly image. He is reluctant to offend investors as can be seen from his handling of the PGCC issue, the Queensbay land conversion issue and the issue of high rise buildings within Penang’s heritage zone.
Is he really a people-centric leader or just another bad politician with a pro-businesses agenda which puts aside the needs of the people? Guan Eng also likes anything with a ‘free’ tag - a free Wireless@Penang project, free trade zones, a free SkyBus project, free golf courses from the Koreans etc.
In rebutting critics on the claim of potential health risks from the free Wireless@Penang project, Guan Eng likes to cite the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as the authoritative body for reference to his decision making.
Since Malaysia is the signatory nation to IEEE regulations and guidelines regarding the installation of transmission towers and other telecommunication issues, I would like the Penang state government to adhere to the rules and guidelines in reviewing whether the existing towers do contravene IEEE guidelines or not.
If the towers contravene IEEE guidelines, please do Penangites a favour by dismantling all the towers whether they are legally or illegally installed. However, I can bet with you this ‘pro-investor, business friendly’ state government will tell you this: ‘But wait, we could be sued for hundreds of millions’!
When pressed on the PGCC and Queensbay land conversion issues and the issue of approval of high-rise building within heritage zones, again the state government’s typical response was; ‘But wait, we could be sued for hundreds of millions’!
Guan Eng also likes to boast about the foreign investment in the state’s free trade zones. But ignoring the capacity of these free trade zones will have a negative impact on traffic, environment, land use and also job opportunities.
On environmental issues, state executive council member Chow Kon Yeow has openly stated that landfill are not an option. The very next day, Guan Eng’s chief of staff, Jeff Ooi told the press that the state government was looking for alternative landfill site.
Knowing that landfills create a problem for the environment, yet the state government makes a policy U-turn to create another landfill. The Jelutong landfill is still operating after it was suppose to be closed. Is this what prompted Ooi to look for another landfill?
When Koh Tsu Koon and gang decided to open up the Pulau Burung landfill it was because the site was in a remote area. But the operators soon saw red when their hauling costs skyrocketed. Ooi should stick to the decision of using the Pulau Burung landfill instead of allowing illegal dumping at the Jelutong landfill or looking for an alternative landfill site.
This demonstrates a total lack of planning and strategy by the state government. This issue will be a time bomb for Guan Eng if he is too slow to react.
Blaming others is what Guan Eng and his team do the best. He will surely blame everything and anything on Teng Hock Nan, Koh Tsu Koon and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. And while he is blaming them, is he also quietly accepting all their stupid policies and plans? Is this what Penangites expect from him?
When Penang encountered flash floods over the past few months, he simply magically produced the Penang flood mitigation projects of Koh Tsu Koon but without realising it was designed for Barisan cronies and would not solve the flooding problem on a long-term basis.
The whole problem of this RM970 million solution is that its ignores the management of storm water runoff and is too costly to implement. I can implement a complete flood mitigation solution for the whole of Penang with just RM100 million and make a huge profit out of it.
DAP’s Chong Eng threw the challenge to BN during the recent Parliament session. She and Guan Eng should throw the challenge to me.
Do you know what Guan Eng doesn’t like? He doesn’t like to be seen as anti development. So he embraces Porr, Penang Second Link, the Penang Hill Cable Car project, Wireless@Penang, new hotels in Georgetown’s heritage enclave, the SkyBus project, free golf courses etc.
Why have so many issues popped up recently? It is all because of Guan Eng’s refusal or reluctance to put a proper public consultation mechanism in place. Without public participation and consultation, he makes his own decisions.
Public participation and consultation enables the state government to ensure that the public in general, and the stakeholders in particular, are involved in the decision-making process.
Currently, no procedural mechanism exists in Penang that would allow the public to guide the decision-making bodies in evaluating input, information and feedback from all stakeholders. The nature of consultation is vague.
Public involvement and consultation in the decision-making process should not be a hollow promise. Guan Eng should not pay lip service to public participation and consultation by organising just a few meet-the-people or NGO sessions.
To achieve transparency, it is important that the public and stakeholders make their views known, that they are confident that their views have been considered, and that everyone has access to all submissions. This will assist parties in knowing their views are being considered by the state government and this in turn will raise confidence in the state government and its decisions.
Guan Eng stresses that the new state administration of Penang is a CAT government, for Competency, Accountability and Transparency and Penang will be the first state government that adopts the CAT governing philosophy.
But will Guan Eng practice what he preaches?