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LAST_UPDATESat, 21 Apr 2018 9pm

Penang - An Administration 'Plagued By Controversies'

One of the most-talked-about controversy in the last two years, including among the Chinese community, seen as DAP’s loyal supporters, is, of course, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case. (File pix)One of the most-talked-about controversy in the last two years, including among the Chinese community, seen as DAP’s loyal supporters, is, of course, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case. (File pix)

GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional in Penang is in high spirits to meet the challenges in the 14th General Election.

This is because the party knows this is its big chance to spring a surprise following controversies plaguing the DAP-led Penang government in recent years.

One of the most-talked-about controversy in the last two years, including among the Chinese community, seen as DAP’s loyal supporters, is, of course, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case.

Despite constantly proclaiming that his administration is “clean”, Lim found himself at the centre of a controversy when he claimed trial to two counts of graft on June 30, 2016, over the sale of his Jalan Pinhorn bungalow.

Lim is the first chief minister in the state’s history to be charged with graft, or any offence for the matter, while in office.

All eyes will be on Lim when the trial begins on March 26.

And, the latest controversy is the proposed RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project. The mega infrastructure project is the subject of an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), following the unusually high cost — RM305 million — for its technical studies, as well as the 22-month delay in completing them.

Although RM202 million had been paid to the contractor for the feasibility studies of three paired roads project, a component of the tunnel project, no physical work has started.

Lim has refused to answer questions raised by various quarters on the project, often blaming his critics for “sabotaging” the state’s initiative to alleviate traffic congestion.

In the latest fiasco, Lim’s picture with a businessman bearing the title “Datuk Seri”, who is being investigated by the anti-graft body for allegedly receiving RM19 million to stop investigations into the project, has made its rounds on social media.

Lim has kept mum about the photographer as well, saying that it was part of an attempt to smear him. His critics, however, are not convinced and more “exposes” are expected on the issue.

Apart from the two main controversies plaguing Lim’s administration, people have not forgotten about the probe into the illegal carbon filter factory in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam, last year. Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin had raised the issue following complaints from her constituents in 2015, but no solution was put in place. She again raised it last year.

Following the brouhaha, MACC initiated a probe into the illegal factory, which led to the arrest of state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh. Phee had apparently written two letters to the Seberang Prai Municipal Council, restraining it from taking action against the factory.

Norlela is not the only one who has spoken out against Lim’s administration. DAP maverick Tanjung Bunga assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, who often spoke out about environmental issues in his constituency, has also earned the wrath of Lim and other party leaders and members.

And, then, there’s the video of an unidentified woman’s emotional plea to the state government. In the three-minute video, the woman, in her 20s, laments how things have changed for the worse in Penang in recent years.

She questions how the past 10 years under the DAP-led state government has not made life better for Penang folk.

She cites issues affecting Penang, including the excess supply of luxury homes, overpriced highways, reclamation, floods, as well as the millions of ringgit wasted on the undersea tunnel studies.

State BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow said there was “a wind of change” and positive reactions towards the coalition.

He said the mood was different from the 13th General Election, with the people voicing out dissatisfaction against the state administration’s controversies.

“Whether BN wins or not, that will depend on the overall
political scenario. But, what is certain is that under Pakatan Harapan, the people no longer have any ‘harapan’ (hope),” he said.

“I am confident that Gerakan and MCA can win several of our traditional seats that we lost in the past. But, I cannot reveal them as that is part of our strategy.”

At present, DAP and PKR hold 29 state seats, while Umno holds 10 and Pas one.

Political observer Azizi Safar said DAP had formed a very “strong” government in 2008 and 2013, to the extent it resulted in an imbalance in the state’s democratic system.

He said the situation happened to BN when they formed a “strong” government in the 1990s and in 2004, drowning out the voices of the opposition then.

“After 2013, there were only representatives from Umno for BN and none from the Chinese and Indian communities.

“It’s not impossible for BN to return to victory in Penang. But, what is important is that the people of Penang must send a strong opposition to the state assembly in the general election.

“At the same time, the opposition can no longer be represented by only Umno, as the voices of the Chinese and the Indians are very much needed to send a clear message across,” the Kepala Batas Umno strategic planning committee chairman said.

- NST