Umno is de­mand­ing Guan Eng's res­ig­na­tion over cor­rup­tion charges

New Straits Times - - Opinion - au­dreymd@nst.com.my The writer is NST's Pe­nang bu­reau chief. She en­joys the sun, the sea and the sand, from which she draws her in­spi­ra­tion

THE Pe­nang as­sem­bly sit­ting, which be­gins next Fri­day, prom­ises to be an ex­cit­ing af­fair. Some view it as the last sit­ting be­fore the 14th Gen­eral Elec­tion, which is ex­pected to be called within the next few months.

Oth­ers see it as one of the last few meet­ings for Chief Min­is­ter Lim Guan Eng, that is if he is con­victed on two counts of cor­rup­tion which are pend­ing in court.

These two, how­ever, are not strong rea­sons for this sit­ting to heat up.

Rather, all eyes will be on a mo­tion to be brought by Pe­nang Umno to de­mand Guan Eng’s res­ig­na­tion over his cor­rup­tion charges.

The move is seen as a tit-for­tat af­ter Guan Eng’s de­ci­sion to move a mo­tion to “strongly con­demn” Tasek Gel­u­gor mem­ber of par­lia­ment Datuk Shabudin Ya­haya over his re­marks in Par­lia­ment on child mar­riage.

Guan Eng’s ac­tion was viewed as an act of re­venge against Shabudin fol­low­ing the lat­ter’s rev­e­la­tion in Par­lia­ment last year about his pur­chase of a prop­erty below mar­ket price.

It is left to be seen whether Pe­nang Umno’s mo­tion will be ac­cepted for tabling.

The party had un­til last Fri­day to sub­mit a no­tice to the speaker on the mo­tion.

On April 30, Pe­nang Umno chief Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Os­man said state op­po­si­tion leader Datuk Ja­hara Hamid had sent a no­tice on the mat­ter to the speaker.

For the DAP-led state govern­ment, the mo­tion sig­ni­fies a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” sit­u­a­tion.

If the mo­tion is not ac­cepted for de­bate, some will ar­gue that this proves there is no democ­racy, an as­ser­tion of this ad­min­is­tra­tion since tak­ing over the state in 2008.

Re­cently, the de­bate on the pro­posed land recla­ma­tion at the south­ern coast of the is­land — Pe­nang South Recla­ma­tion — took cen­tre stage.

Pe­nang Ger­akan had asked for the project’s doc­u­ments to be de­clas­si­fied un­der the state’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion (FoI) En­act­ment.

The state govern­ment was asked to come clean on costs in­curred in the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment and fea­si­bil­ity study re­port, as well as how the com­pany car­ry­ing out the re­port would be paid.

It has been more than a year since the project was pro­posed, yet Pe­nang folk have not been in­formed about the de­tails.

It is time the state govern­ment came out with an ex­pla­na­tion.

The Pe­nang South Recla­ma­tion project will see the cre­ation of three man-made is­lands where pro­ceeds will be used to fund the multi-bil­lion ring­git Pe­nang Trans­port Mas­ter Plan ini­tia­tive.

On the FoI, the state govern­ment was crit­i­cised af­ter state Ger­akan Youth act­ing chief Ja­son Loo re­vealed he had failed at least 20 times to pur­chase re­lated doc­u­ments.

He had sought to ob­tain var­i­ous doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing those re­lated to af­ford­able hous­ing guide­lines, Seri Tan­jung Pi­nang 1 and 2, Gur­ney Wharf, Bayan Bay and Bayan Mu­tiara recla­ma­tion projects and Ta­man Mang­gis’ open ten­der doc­u­ments.

Loo said the state govern­ment had put up var­i­ous ob­sta­cles to pre­vent the doc­u­ments from be­ing de­clas­si­fied such as mak­ing ap­pli­cants sign a statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion that pre­vented them from speak­ing about, or shar­ing in­for­ma­tion in the doc­u­ments, as well as im­pos­ing a “con­fi­den­tial­ity clause” be­tween the state au­thor­ity and the de­vel­op­ers.

A lib­er­tar­ian think-tank had told the state govern­ment to walk the talk if it wanted to in­crease pub­lic en­gage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in fos­ter­ing a healthy democ­racy.

In­sti­tute for Democ­racy and Eco­nomic Af­fairs (IDEAS) told the New Straits Times that the state govern­ment should not fear re­quests by peo­ple to ob­tain doc­u­ments on pub­lic projects.

Re­cently, there was a brouhaha over Pu­lau Jere­jak.

The Sun­gai Bu­loh Set­tle­ment Coun­cil had called for an im­me­di­ate mora­to­rium on all de­vel­op­ment plans on Pu­lau Jere­jak to pro­tect the is­land’s his­tor­i­cal struc­tures.

The call was sup­ported by sev­eral non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, which urged the state govern­ment to gazette Pu­lau Jere­jak as a for­est re­serve.

Pu­lau Jere­jak was the old­est lep­rosy in­sti­tu­tion in the coun­try for 102 years from 1867. It was also a quar­an­tine cen­tre for im­mi­grants who landed in Pe­nang be­tween 1877 and 1940.

It was re­ported that UDA Hold­ings had en­tered into a joint-ven­ture agree­ment with Q Is­lands De­vel­op­ment Sdn Bhd to re­de­velop the Jere­jak Rain­for­est Re­sort & Spa.

The state govern­ment had ap­proved the rede­vel­op­ment’s mas­ter plan and work is ex­pected to start later this year.

The project will in­clude 1,200 res­i­den­tial units, a theme park, a ma­rina, ho­tels and a cy­cling track.

Dur­ing the last state as­sem­bly sit­ting, the state govern­ment was asked to pro­vide an­swers to a con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the sale of a tiny part of Pu­lau Jere­jak af­ter state En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee chair­man Phee Boon Poh had in May last year as­sured the pub­lic that the is­land would be gazetted as a per­ma­nent for­est re­serve.

The state once said Pu­lau Jere­jak would not be handed over to any third party for de­vel­op­ment.

Come May 19, the at­ten­tion will be on whether the mo­tion to de­mand Lim’s res­ig­na­tion is al­lowed.

Will Pe­nang Umno be able to thank the state govern­ment for al­low­ing it to ta­ble the mo­tion like how Pas pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Ab­dul Hadi Awang thanked the Fed­eral Govern­ment for al­low­ing him to present a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Crim­i­nal Ju­ris­dic­tion) Act 1965 (Act 355) in Par­lia­ment last month?

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