WILL MOTION BE TABLED?
Umno is demanding Guan Eng's resignation over corruption charges
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?