I QUITE agree with Penang-based documentary filmmaker Andrew Han who wrote in Free Malaysia Today (FMT) that the opposition in Penang has failed to raise critical questions about the nature of development in Penang in the recent state assembly.
In a more specific sense, their performance in the assembly was dismal – not even to the level before the elections.
Not only that they failed to raise questions about the socio-economic impact of the Penang South Island (PSI) development project, they seem to have missed out on crucial matter like the Penang Development Corporation’s (PDC) land sale to Umech Land and the subsequent termination of the deal due to the last-minute entry of Sunway Bhd as the majority shareholder of the company.
The opposition members were probably unaware of the controversy surrounding the land deal, why the land was sold cheaply, why there was no open tender and why PDC – the development agency of the Penang state government – had to sell the land in Byram in the first place.
It took the Penang Chinese Chambers of Commerce (PCCC) to raise critical questions about the Umech land deal. While some government backbenchers did raise questions pertaining to the controversial land deal, the opposition was caught unaware and unsure as to how they could have raised questions about the deal.
Beyond the PSI and the controversial land deal, there are many other pressing issues that could have been raised by the opposition members from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.
Their forte might be race and religion but as an alternative government in waiting, there are other critical issues faced by Penangites.
Water shortage is another critical area; while the Penang state is looking into the possibility of drawing either raw or treated water from Sungai Perak, the issue is the time factor.
When will the project be completed? Until and unless the project is completed, do Penangites have to put up with periodic water shortages?
What about the companies that have invested in Penang? What happened in Selangor as a result of water disruption some years ago cannot be easily forgotten. Companies in Selangor lost millions of ringgit in financial losses due to water shortage.
PSI was predicated on the need to build public transport infrastructure in the state. The Light Rail System (LRT) has been mooted as a viable public transport system connecting the Penang island and the mainland. The opposition should have raised questions about the LRT system, its implementation and others.
It should have reminded the Penang state government that the original objective of the PSI should not be forgotten if there is any possible deviation towards real estate development.
Land shortage is another critical area of concern for the Penang state government and potential investors. The opposition should have raised questions about how the state is going to address the pressing issue of land shortage and what alternative plans that the state has?
It should have reminded the Penang state government that alternatives plans or strategies have to be worked out to ensure that Penang remains a viable place for investments.
There are many other issues that could have been raised by the opposition. For the time being, it looks like the government backbenchers have to play the role of the opposition.
Wake up opposition! There is more to this country than just race and religion. – Dec 9, 2023
Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Utusan Malaysia