100th day of rule under DAP, PKR, PAS in penang

yep, today marks the 100th day of the new state government, lead by DAP’s lim guan eng (LGE)  as chief minister. so how? any improvement? anything they had done/implemented/put forward that were consider good? bad? here is the ‘report card’ from NST:

the report from NST gets off on a negative side from the start but towards the end, it shows some positive side.

well, LGE got into my good book just the 2nd day after he became PM when he called for a review to NEP. he did not said abolish NEP but lots of umno men, top men at that mind you, including the ex DCM, jumped up and held a protest in komtar. he only called for transparency in implementing NEP – open tenders and no cronism and nepotism.

another thing i’m in favour of is the government uncovering land scams! i can’t wait for the report to be made public soon!

the appointments of councilors – reps. from some NGOs were appointed like from aliran and women’s centre for change. you can’t please everyone (especially people like ong) so *sigh* there were some people who complained not enough representation of NGOs and why there were several reps. from the business community.

methink many penangites were impressed with LGE’s simple and humble lifestyle. he refused to move in the official residence because repairs to the roof will cost a lot. he refused to have  police out-riders accompanying him when he’s on the road. he takes economy class on flights! he attended all religious functions. oh but of course, we know, all these within 100 days… we will never know what will happen after 365 days, after 3 years… he might change after being too long at the post. well i’m being an optimistic and would like to think no, that won’t happen.

lots of people were happy when the government announced that leasehold land can convert to freehold. then just yesterday, the government announced that there’s a move to revive the state bus firm. ahh… this is what ong had been advocating for, for a long time, so i guess he should be pleased… er…? nah, i realised he is hard to please so i guess he won’t be happy at all till it really get going. i hate to say it but this beardy activist friend of mine sounds like a very negative, pessimistic person… when you look at the long list of things he rattled off that the government did not do fulfill. (ok ong, i know you will say you are only being realistic). were all these promised by the government? even if yes, you expect them to fulfill all of them in 100 days?

had an interview with LGE and he said "i’d rather fall trying than having fail to try". hmm… very philosophical. i remember at the dinner with NGOs, he had said "evil exist because good men do nothing about it.".

malaysiakini was quick on the mark to come up with this interview – yesterday morning (see the article below), while the star paper i see, came out with it only very late last night. you can read about it here, here and here.

well, despite some negativity, i still think the new government is doing well and i would like to congrat LGE for his 100th day and wish for better days for penang, where i was born and bred (and i guess dispatched!), with all promises (from their manifesto) fulfilled.


From Malaysiakini, June 17

"I’d rather fail trying than having failed to try"
by Athi Veeranggan

First 100 days


Admittedly, it has been no easy task for newly-minted chief minister Lim Guan Eng from the DAP to lead his Pakatan Rakyat team in governing Penang over the past three months since the coalition won the island state in the March 8 general elections.

At a media conference recently, Lim spoke on various initiatives taken so far by his greenhorn state government in bringing about changes to administration policies to be in line with the concept of CAT (competency, accountability and transparency).

A golf player and a steadfast Manchester United football club fan, he also spoke about changes in his lifestyle over the past few months in the executive hot seat, compared with his previous life as an opposition leader.

He revealed that his wife, Betty Chew and children missed him more now but added that he was willing to sacrifice his family time towards achieving his twin political goals of driving forward Penang’s economy and attaining social equality for all.

Below is an extract of the interview in Penang with the 48-year-old Lim on his first 100 days in office.

Since storming into power in March 8 polls, what measures have the Penang government implemented for the benefit of Penangites?

Well, we’ve cancelled all local council summonses issued before March 8. We’ve implemented a new tender policy in accordance with existing laws for all government contracts and procurement below. For projects below RM200,000, the tender would be for all Class F companies whereby the successful ones would be determined in a draw.

Any contract above that amount will be awarded via an open tender system. A new land policy has been implemented to encourage land ownership and we have prohibited all government leaders from buying state land.

We have cut down expenses such as canceling the purchase of new Proton Perdana cars worth more than RM600,000 ordered by the previous state administration. We have instructed government departments and administrative officers to cut down their traveling costs and to instead organise functions in government buildings and complexes rather than hotels.

We have instructed the relevant departments and agencies to hand out relief aid within 24 hours to victims of tragedies and natural disasters and also give out rice to those classified as poor by the Welfare Department. Top SPM and STPM students in the state will also be rewarded as part of our recognition of them.

We will also be presenting a one-off RM100 aid to each needy household to ease their costs in wake of fuel price hike. Even though I know this is a heavy financial burden involving RM10 million from state coffers, nonetheless we will do it since the federal government has neglected to help the suffering citizens. The state treasury is now working out the details.

The Penang government is tightening its belt and will explore various ways and means to help the people. We want the people to renew their faith in the government that represents them and to have hope for future and love for each other.

If we are attracting billion-ringgit investments, we want to make all Penangites stakeholders in the state’s socio-economic development. We want to show that the state government cares.

What are the immediate challenges you see ahead?

We anticipate many challenges ahead especially in attracting foreign investment. For instance, Penang faced external challenges when it wanted to implement the open tender system.

The state government also recently lost billions in foreign direct investment (FDI) when a potential investor pulled out after Umno opposition leaders called on the federal government to scrap the Second Penang Bridge project.

So we are facing these challenges caused by external forces, not internal. For instance, the state government was not responsible for the fuel price hike but became an innocent victim of it. The hike was due to the dodgy decisions of others, not us.

We will continue to face all these challenges with a strong heart, mind and will.

It can’t be denied that NGOs today play a vital role in both civil society and in promoting socio-economic initiatives. Naturally, they have very high expectations of the Penang government. What do you think of this?

It’s something that we have to deal with. They must first get used to the new government’s CAT concept just like how the civil servants will need to adjust to us. We need to guide civil servants to implement policies and action that are based on CAT.

Bad hats are bound to exist in any organisation, but the real challenge is to root them out. We are in the process of transition, of adjustments and accommodation to enable us to work as one team in forging ahead.

Could you please extrapolate on CAT and what it would entail for both the people and the state government machinery.

We are the first state government in the country to adopt and implement CAT principles, which are international standards. Competency means we choose the best to be on top of the rest, regardless of their religion, race, gender and political affiliation.

That’s the reason behind our move to choose people across the political divide. We want to promote a political paradigm shift. But when we did it, we were criticised heavily. The people chosen were instead told to have greater loyalty to their political party rather than to the government.

What I wish to ask here is this: which would be the greater priority – loyalty to the people and country, or loyalty to the political party? We did not ask one to abandon one’s political party. We just asked them to serve the people.

This is being practised in the US, where one is allowed to serve in any capacity offered regardless one is a Democrat or Republican. Although the practice is an international norm, in Malaysia. it is seen as abnormal.

We regret this criticism against our efforts to choose people based on their ability and honesty.

We will continue to run a clean government, which will be a new experiment to demonstrate that a clean government can prosper allowing the people to share the prosperity.

This is something new […] it never has been done in Malaysia because many see corruption as part of life. Corruption is not our culture. I don’t know whether or not we will succeed. I would rather fail trying rather than having failed to try.

The election results showed that the people want to reclaim their ownership of the government. I believe that this government is for the people and the government is only as good as its people.

We must trust the people. We must let the people work for their benefit and not for our benefit.

That’s why we prohibited government leaders from buying state land because state land belongs to the people. We also requested people to help us to fight corruption and told them not to bribe any government officials.

If government officials seek bribes, report the person to us. We will take action. We want the government to rule efficiently based on rules and laws, not bribes. If people are empowered, we can solve many problems such as cleanliness, traffic congestion or crime.

One of the mainstays of the Penang economy is tourism. What are your thoughts on this sector and the role it will play in the future.

We have outlined eight areas to boost tourist arrival in Penang comprising heritage tourism, education tourism, medical tourism, eco-tourism, being a convention city, being the regional headquarters for multinational companies (MNCs) and as a film, art and cultural centre.

Our plan is get Penang listed as heritage city by Unesco and carry out restoration and maintenance of heritage buildings. This in turn will rekindle the night life in Georgetown.

We will explore the high standards of education in Penang to promote the state as a centre for learning excellence while medical tourism will be marketed by promoting the top-quality medical facilities, doctors and nurses.

Eco-tourism is to boost Penang’s greenery and natural landscape of a tropical island-state, especially Penang Hill. We have not outlined any project for Penang Hill but we would consider any proposal if merited. Any project however, including the proposed cable car, must be eco-development friendly and preserve the hill’s beauty.

Penang will also be promoted as a city for convention activities, for MNCs to set up their regional headquarters and as an ideal place for movie-making, art and cultural events.

We will be unveiling several project plans soon […] let the new land ownership policy yield results. When a land can be fully utilised to its economic capacity, its value will go up. This will then inspire private-sector driven economic growth in accordance with regulations. The government meanwhile facilitates the infrastructural system and opportunities for the private sector to flourish.

Overall, we want to restore Penang’s glorious past as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.

You mentioned earlier that attracting Foreign Direct Investment to Penang would be one of your major challenges. What exactly are the issues that need to be tackled here?

Foreign investment is not much affected because we have managed to lure investors who want to invest in other parts of Malaysia […] not only to invest in Penang but also to increase their investment sum.

We have shown to them that we can deliver and we are not denying that other people have also contributed to this success. But in business, closing a deal is the most difficult part of the negotiations. This is a result of the combined efforts of all the people of Penang.

There has been public outcry over several controversial mega-projects in the state. However, the Penang government has failed to act to stop these projects. Why is this?

The government cannot do anything if there were no irregularities or mala fide (bad intentions) in projects such as Hunza Gurney and Times Square. There must be a police report made on any irregularity with proof furnished.

Otherwise the government’s hands are tied. In the case of Penang Global City Centre (PGCC), the government could not change is zoning due to its financial repercussion.

When we raise questions on these projects, I think we are also bound by legal points. If one can prove mala fide of a project then show it to us […] we cannot act merely by listening. Who’s going to bear the cost?

On the Kampung Buah Pala project, a high-powered state committee is looking into the case to see whether there was mala fide in the conversion of the land. We should resolve the issue in next few months.

The state government will not approve any project carried out with mala fide and through corruption. But we must be able to prove them first.

How are the state’s finances at the present time? 

The state government has some money and we are now implementing cost-cutting measures. Our financial situation now is better than before. We are thrifty to save the government’s money which is people’s money. I think we would be able to reduce the current RM35 million deficit. The situation is improving.

The main thing here is substantial contagion liabilities caused by land scandals and excesses. These have caused the state’s financial cost and estimates to go haywire.

We do not know the extent of these liabilities […] our assessments have revealed that one single land scandal alone caused a monetary loss of millions to the state coffers. We are unhappy with the initial investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Agency because it produced no evidence. And ACA then closed the file.

The three-man ad hoc task force headed by the Deputy Chief Minister (1) Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin will soon conclude its own probe and report their findings to the exco. We faced a lot of obstacles in our investigations.

We will now look into whether there is evidence to prosecute those behind the scam. This scam was an enormous scandal […] it is baffling how it could happen. The previous government cannot wash its hands now and walk away from its responsibilities.

We also hope that the federal government will continue to commit promised funds. Although we can manage on our own now, nonetheless we need federal funding. Otherwise, it will be tough.

But as the saying goes,`When the going get tough, the tough gets going’. We are sure the federal government is matured and would respect the wishes of the voters. And since this is his home state, surely Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will not want Penang to move backwards.

We hope he will work closely with us to ensure its growth, development and prosperity

Penang has been slated for several federal-funded mega-projects under the Northern Corridor Economic Region development programme. What is the progress so far in this respect?

We have not received any word on those promised federal-funded projects, such as the monorail.

The monorail is a project fully-financed by the federal government. Should the state government reject a project financed by the federal government? I think that is unwise move.

We are willing to wait for the federal government to deliver the project to us. The proposed Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr), however, is not moving because of the dispute between the federal government and the company.

The compensation claimed by the company is so exorbitant that the federal government cannot stomach it. As far I’m concerned it’s not on the table and we are very much in the dark over it.

We want infrastructural projects that are cost-effective and that can alleviate traffic congestion.

Porr is contentious plus we don’t know its cost and related issues.

‘Good public transport’ has been the latest catchphrase since the steep fuel price hike recently. What steps are Penang taking to make public transport a viable option for its people?

We are negotiating with the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB) to implement a format to upgrade public transport and reduce traffic congestion. It will take some time.

It cannot be done overnight because we don’t have the (legal) power over these modes of public transport. It is under federal control. But we are working towards it.

Our three main priorities are reducing traffic congestion and crime and improving cleanliness.

The Penang government has been rapped for not reintroducing local council elections as promised before the general elections. Your comments, please.

It’s unfair for outsider NGOs to criticise the Penang government for not conducting local government elections. Why they are picking on the Penang government? Why don’t they pick on Kelantan or the other Pakatan Rakyat states, for instance, which have yet to restore local elections?

These NGOs have their own agenda. I am unhappy about it. They should practised consistency and not be selective.

Penang NGOs have right to demand for local government elections because they are from Penang. But this is subject to federal laws. We are seeking to amend the laws to achieve our goal to conduct local elections.

We are committed to restoring the third vote by the next election. It will involve a lot of money […] whether the Election Commission will listen or not is another puzzle. We hope that it can be conducted at the same time as the next general election.

Are robbers and thieves finding things much more difficult in Penang nowadays?

The crime rate in first five months of this year has gone down by two percent compared with the corresponding period last year.

For crime-solving, Penang is number one with 52 percent of crimes solved. As for the crime index, we are at number 10 for increase in crime rates.

How is Penang’s relationship with the other Pakatan Rakyat state governments?

We have talked about cooperation and share stories whenever we meet. We are all busy running around with our own work.

Our cooperation showed when Penang was the first state government to recognise the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority, which will govern the proposed Northern Corridor Economic Region development plan. This is a sign of cooperation.

How are things on the home front?

Life has changed a lot in the past 100 days. Well, I don’t drink anymore. Since I meet a lot of people, especially female civil servants, an alcohol breath would be unpleasant. Anyway I am not a regular heavy drinker, so it does not matter.

I now haven’t got time to watch the games of my favourite football club or golf. I hear the on-going US Open (golf championships) is exciting but I have yet to see it.

Nothing is ever easier than what you thought it was. Even to be a mother or father is the same. That’s life. So long as we have the perseverance and commitment towards certain objectives, I believe we can finally prevail.

The bottom line is the team around us working together to achieve a common goal.

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