Sunday, December 21, 2008

Penang waives premium for leasehold title change - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Dec 21, 2008

Some 20,000 owners of low and medium-cost flats developed on state land need not pay a premium to convert their leasehold titles to freehold status.

The exemption was made ''to give hope'' to low-income homeowners for the coming new year, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said after presenting aid to the underprivileged in Komtar.

''The decision was made at the state executive council meeting yesterday.

''These flat owners will only have to pay the processing fees for the applications.

''The majority of those who will benefit are those who own flats under the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and PDC Properties housing schemes,'' he said.

In June, Lim announced that residential leasehold landowners in Penang could apply for their property to be converted to freehold status upon paying a land premium and processing fee.

Lim said the state might consider giving those who had landed leasehold property on state land a discount on the premium price.

On another matter, Lim said Penang would boycott Arianna Events Management " the organiser of the aborted Kings of Tennis event.

''We supported the event because we took into account the views of people like Penang Heritage Trust president Dr Choong Sim Poey and Penang Tourism Action Council (PTAC) chairman Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen, who both supported the project.

''Now, the organiser has failed to deliver.''

Lim said the government would not make the same mistake again. ''Once bitten, forever shy,'' he said.

On Saturday, the company's director Arianna Teoh agreed to restore the damaged Esplanade field to its original state, five weeks after the event was cancelled.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guan Eng warns Gamuda about making allegations - Sun

Dec 18, 2008 By Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN:

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has warned Gamuda Bhd to think carefully before making allegations against the state government.

"Don't play the fool with the Penang state government," he said in response to Gamuda's statement today that its RM12.5bil double-tracking project linking Ipoh to Padang Besar was delayed due to land acquisition problems in Penang.

"My advice to Gamuda is to think carefully before they bring up allegations that we caused the delay," said Lim.

He said MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Gamuda and MMC Corp Bhd, was issued a stop work order back in October because they had damaged the river bund and caused floods in several areas on the mainland.

"The company had admitted causing the problem and even paid compensation to a farmer for losses he suffered due to the floods, and then they went and told the Transport Ministry that they did not cause the floods," he said.

Lim said he will prepare a full reply to Gamuda's statement tomorrow but repeated his warning to the company to not play around with the Penang state government'.

It was reported on Wednesday that Gamuda group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said the double tracking project will be delayed by at least a year due to the delay in acquiring land in Penang.

He reportedly said there are substantial delays in Penang due to the huge number of squatters between the railway and the rights of reserve.

Lin said the government should have handed the land over within nine months of the start of the contract but that it will take at least another year for the land to be handed over.

The project, which commenced in January, is expected to be completed in early 2013.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Penang mulls developer fund to fix hillslope projects - Star

Dec 17, 2008 By K. KASTURI DEWI

GEORGE TOWN: Penang will consider asking developers of hillslope projects to set up a fund to tackle remedial works which arise after their projects are completed.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state will hold discussions with developers to come out with a formula on the setting up of such a fund.

“This fund will be specially set up for the treatment and remedial works of hillslope projects.

“Such a fund is necessary because of cases where a problem arises after a project is completed and OC (Occupation Certificate) is obtained but the developer cannot be traced to do the remedial works,” he told reporters at a press conference after the opening of the Pacific Komtar Departmental Store in Komtar Wednesday.

He said this when asked to comment on the Selangor government’s proposal to impose higher assessment rates or a levy on hillside property.

It was reported that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the assessment collected would be used to monitor and maintain sensitive areas and also as a relief effort for those living in low-lying areas who are affected by hillslope development.

Lim indicated that he wanted the fund to be of substantial amount to tackle any problems that arose and also to drive home a message to developers that the state was serious in ensuring that any future hillslope projects were “really safe.”

Earlier in his speech, Lim said Penang expected 3.5 million tourist arrivals next year with anticipated earnings of RM1.4bil.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guan Eng stumped over agreement to pay RM33.18 million advance to IJM - Sun

GEORGE TOWN (Sept 29, 2008)by Himanshu Bhatt

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today he was confused by the former state government’s agreement to give RM33.18 million as “advance payment in the form of a loan” to IJM Corp Bhd for the Jelutong Expressway project.

Lim told reporters he was curious why the state had decided to give the amount in a 1997 agreement when it had already given IJM land for the project which cost RM672.2 million .

“In addition to giving land, the state has to give an advance. It does not make sense,” he told a press conference at Komtar here.

Lim said his confusion was compounded by the fact that IJM also owed the state RM24.1 million for payment of the 132ha land, which is supposed to be settled only after the state had given the advance of RM33.18 million.

“I don’t understand why they can’t settle both payments by contra,” he said when asked to comment on the non-payment by IJM to the state.

Lim said he needed to get more information from state government officers.

He noted that the state was supposed to give the RM33.18 million in stages over over five years from 2005.

Meanwhile, on MCA vice-president Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai’s call for Gerakan and MCA to merge, Lim said such a merger would only be cosmetic if the policies of the Barisan Nasional (BN) did not change.

“The problem is not Gerakan or MCA, the problem is the BN.” he said.

He also noted Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s statement that 60% of the party’s members were inclined to leave the BN.

“If 60% of the members want to the leave, why are they still stuck in the BN?” he asked.

“If they want a leader who doesn’t listen to their views, I wish them luck!," he added.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Open tender for tourism development on Pulau Jerejak - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Sept 22, 2008 By ANDREA FILMER

The Penang state government will have an open tender for a tourism development project on Pulau Jerejak by year-end.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced Monday that the project would entail “billions” in investment and take at least 10 years to complete.

He said the state wanted to promote holistic development on the former penal colony, including eco and sports tourism.

“There are also ideas for medical and film tourism on the island,” he said after meeting with Sime Darby Berhad representatives in Komtar.

“We are looking at billions (in investment) and if all goes well, we can call for tenders before the end of this year,” Lim added.

He said the state had received great interest from both foreign and local investors regarding Pulau Jerejak and other development projects on the island.

“To date, we have at least two Middle Eastern and one Asia Pacific investor who have expressed interest in creating a holistic masterplan for Pulau Jerejak. “On the local front, Sime Darby has come forward with proposals on the project and other related projects in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER),” Lim said.

He added that the foreign investors involved were all linked with local companies and all tourism-related initiatives in the state would be conducted by open tender.

Lim added that there had been significant progress in other development projects in the state.

“From this Thursday to Saturday, the public will see various development policies that we have worked so hard on for the last few months. All these projects are on track,” Lim said, adding that they involved tourism projects on the state’s mainland and plans for Komtar, a state icon that houses the offices of local, state and federal authorities.

On another matter, Lim said the state would take strong action on debtors who failed to settle their state student scholarships and loans.

“There is still RM15.6mil owed through these loans from 3,416 debtors. The state intends to make these names public through newspapers and the Internet and if all fails after warning letters are sent, we will sue them,” he said.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

ISA detentions keep CM away - Star

Sept 18, 2008

PENANG Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has apologised for turning down and cancelling several fast-breaking dinners recently.

He said in a statement that the reason was mainly due to the Sept 12 incident which saw the arrest of Sin Chew Daily’s senior reporter Tan Hoon Cheng as well as Seputeh MP and Kinrara assembly- man Teresa Kok, and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the Internal Security Act 1960.

“As a CM, I have to cooperate and work with various organisations to provide support for Tan and her family.

“I have to thank state Chief Police Officer Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob for his cooperation in the matter, too.

“As things were back to normal and stabilised with Tan’s release in less than 24 hours, I had to rush to Kuala Lumpur to show my support for the other detainees – Kok and Raja Petra, together with their family members,” he said.

He also said he hoped that no more innocent victims would become political toys for those who were irresponsible.

“Therefore in this Ramadan month while the Muslims are observing fasting, let’s unite and fight against the ISA,” he said.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

PENANG COUNCIL:Balik Pulau National Service built without permission - NST

PENANG, THURS: Sept 11, 2008

The Sri Mutiara National Service Camp in Balik Pulau, site of a landslide two days ago, was built without permission of the local authority .

Penang Municipal Council president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman said the camp supervised by the Defence Ministry had never submitted plans to build the camp.

“The camp’s management had promised to submit us the plans but we never received them,” he told reporters after visiting the landslide site here today.

Zainal said the municipal council will conduct an investigation into the three year-old camp.

He did not discount closing it down for safety reasons.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Penang and Seberang Perai Municipal Councils had been asked to ensure that national service camps were built according to procedure.

“This kind of thing should not have happened. Although national service is under the Defence Ministry, the burden to ensure that the camp is safe for trainees lies with the operator,” he said.

National Service Training Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said yesterday the camp would be closed if it was deemed unsafe for occupation.

The landslide behind the camp building shocked nearby residents and also destroyed several durian trees.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All victims can seek aid - Star

Sept 9, 2008 By DERRICK VINESH

THE Penang government hopes to amend a state Welfare Department ruling to allow flood victims to apply for welfare aid despite not staying at flood relief centers.

State Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the ruling, which was inherited from the previous state administration, stated that victims should stay at flood relief centres before they could apply for aid. He said the ruling was outdated.

“It has been a longstanding problem faced by flood victims whenever they wanted to seek aid to help cope with their losses.

“We understand many of them do not want to stay at the relief centre as they fear their belongings in their houses could be looted by irresponsible people,” he said in an interview yesterday.

On Sunday, several flood victims from Kampung Permatang Tok Subuh, Bukit Minyak, were unhappy when officers from the Central Seberang Prai Welfare Department disallowed them from registering for aid.

Sharifah Samariah Syed Ahmad, 46, a businesswoman, said an officer prevented her from registering because she did not stay overnight on Saturday at the village’s temporary flood relief centre.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng assured the victims that all victims could apply for aid from the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Phee said the welfare officers were merely following standard operating procedures to register only those who stayed at flood relief centers.

“Since Lim has asked for those who did not stay at the relief centers to be included in the list of flood victims, we will do the necessary as soon as possible,” he said.

Penang State Govt lodges police report on Azhar's - NST

PENANG, TUES: Sept 9, 2008

The Penang state government today made a police report on Penang Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim in relation to a statement on a Sin Chew Jit Poh journalist that allegedly represents criminal intimidation.

Ng Wei Aik, political secretary to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, made the report at the Jalan Patani police station saying that Azahar, at a news conference at the Umno building here last Friday, had allegedly said: “If anything happens among the races, he will be the first one to be shot.” Ng also forwarded a video compact disc which had a recording of Azhar’s statement at the news conference.

Timur Laut police district chief ACP Azam Abdul Hamid when contacted said investigations were being conducted.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lim: Islam a universal way of life - Sun

GEORGE TOWN (Sept 1, 2008): by Opalyn Mok

Islam is a universal way of life and does not discriminate against race, said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The DAP secretary general, in his statement wishing Muslims a happy and well Ramadhan month, said he believed that Islam is based on the core value of justice without taking into account the differences in races.

"This I fully respect. So, I hope this will be the main core to all efforts to strengthen the unity between all races in this country," he said in a media statement today.

He said the Ramadhan month is a time to test the patience and strength of Muslims while fasting and the non-Muslims should also reflect on this together with Muslims.

"He said the understanding between all races will only unite all and continue to bring development to the nation," he said.

He said he was confident that Ramadhan would fill every Malaysian's heart with the spirit of genuine unity and that the month brings justice and harmony.

"Ramadhan should be used as the basis for us to rise and fight against negativity such as corruption, abuse of power, wastage and work hard to create a society that is fair with equal opportunities for all as encouraged by religious teachings," he said.

As the Penang Chief Minister, Lim gave his guarantee that the CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) principles will be practised without fear or favour to ensure a clean state administration.

"As the DAP secretary general, I give the assurances that our fight which is also based on CAT will ensure our efforts to fight for a clean country and society," he added.

PDC to lodge police, ACA reports against Ahmad - Sun

GEORGE TOWN (Sept 2, 2008): By Himanshu Bhatt and Opalyn Mok

The Penang Development Corporation is lodging police and Anti-Corruption Agency reports against a now-defunct company, of which Umno Bukit Bendera division head Datuk Ahmad Ismail was a director, over its failure to return some RM500,000 to the state after a failed land deal.

Chief minister Lim Guan Eng said he has directed the PDC to make the reports tomorrow (Sept 3) after his administration found that Popular Profile Sdn Bhd (PPSB) had wrongfully taken and kept the money from the state in 1998. PPSB wound up in 2005.

Ahmad is currently at the centre of a storm over the alleged racist remarks he made during the Permatang Pauh by-election, which had in recent days attracted numerous police reports filed by MCA, Gerakan and DAP grassroot leaders.

Speaking at a press conference at InvestPenang here today, Lim said PPSB, with Ahmad as director, had bought a 4.2ha industrial land in Bukit Minyak from PDC for RM5.5 million in 1997.

The company placed a 20% deposit totalling RM1.1 million on May 9, 1997, but was unable to pay the full amount later. It subsequently asked for the agreement to be cancelled and the money refunded on May 30, 1998. PDC agreed to return 10% while the remaining 10% was to be forfeited.

"But the 10% that was to be returned should have been payable to Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd (PUNB), the body that had financed the purchase, not to the company," Lim said.

Noting that PPSB did not then pass the amount to the bank, Lim said PDC had to then fork out an additional RM500,000 to be paid directly to PUNB to get back the title for the land.

Lim questioned why the state did not pay the amount directly to the bank.

He also questioned the state’s rationale for giving Ahmad a "first-class datukship" by awarding him the Darjah Mulia Pangkuan Negri, which carries the title ’Datuk’ in 2002 after his company had taken and kept the money from the state.

Also present were InvestPenang executive chairman Datuk Lee Kah Choon and new general manager Wan Zailena Noordin.

Meanwhile, Penang CID chief SAC II Wan Abdullah Tuanku Said said investigations on the police reports lodged against Ahmad for allegedly uttering racist remarks are now underway.

He said the police will investigate all the police reports lodged by DAP, Gerakan and MCA against Ahmad.

"We will identify witnesses and they will be called in to give their statements on the case."

The reports lodged against Ahmad had alleged that he uttered racist comments that the Chinese are 'only immigrants' and that 'it was impossible to achieve equal rights amongst races as the Chinese were only immigrants'. He allegedly uttered those words in a ceramah in Permatang Pauh on Aug 25.

There was much furore over these alleged comments by Ahmad in the last few days, including by Barisan Nasional's component parties.

There were also calls for discipline action to be taken against Ahmad. However, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said he would tell Ahmad not to repeat the offending words again.

Till now, any attempt to reach Ahmad through his handphone has proved futile. It is learnt he was overseas when the furore over his remarks were building up and had only returned to Malaysia on Aug 31.

Pressure mounts for action against Umno division chief - Sun

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 1, 2008) : Opalyn Mok, Himanshu Bhatt and S. Tamarai Chelvi

Pressure is mounting on the Barisan Nasional leadership and the government to act against Umno Bukit Bendera division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail for the alleged racist remarks he made last month during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign.

Today, the DAP joined grassroot leaders from MCA and Gerakan in lodging police reports, urging that investigations be carried out under the Sedition Act, and that Ahmad be made to withdraw his statement and to apologise to the Chinese community for the hurtful remark.

In Port Klang, MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Tee Keat said he advocated penalty under the Sedition Act for members of BN component parties who make racially sensitive remarks.

He said such action was necessary to ensure that the remarks by the individuals were not reflective of the stand of the parties they belonged to.

"If a party wants to show that the remarks were not reflective of its stand but represented an opinion of the individual (party member), it must discipline the member so as not to give a wrong picture to the people," Bernama quoted him as saying after a visit to Westport Malaysia here.

Ong was asked to comment on Gerakan's intention to suggest to the BN supreme council that leaders of BN component parties who utter racially sensitive remarks be hauled up under the Sedition Act or other relevant laws.

Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had claimed that a racially-sensitive comment by a politician in Penang during the Permatang Pauh by-election recently had eroded the Chinese support towards the BN.

When contacted, the Penang Umno Liaison Committee said it will leave it to the BN leadership to deal with the matter.

Its deputy chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah said they did not receive any official letters, references or complaints regarding Ahmad's statement.

He declined to comment directly on the alleged remark as he had not received any references or complaints, and also did not know whether the vernacular papers which carried the report had reported the matter correctly.

He said this matter only became an issue after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim won the Permatang Pauh by-election.

“Ahmad had allegedly made the statement on Aug 25 but nothing was mentioned at that time. Now, after BN was defeated, all sorts of issues come up,” he said.

“So many people have called me to comment on this but I can't comment when I don't even know what he said. The alleged racist statement only came out in the

Chinese newspapers and I can't read those. I didn't receive anything about it so I can't comment on something I have not seen or read,” he said.

Seberang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Arif Shah Omah Shah, who had contested in the by-election and lost, also refrained from commenting on this as he was not there when it happened.

Arif Shah however echoed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's comment that Ahmad "may not have meant what he has said".

On Saturday, Abdullah had said that he would make sure Ahmad did not repeat his remarks.

He claimed that Ahmad probably did not mean it and that he would tell him not to do it again.

Ahmad had allegedly said the Chinese are "only immigrants" and that "as the Chinese were only immigrants, it was impossible to achieve equal rights amongst races". The report upset many leaders from MCA and Gerakan.

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan expressed disappointment that Abdullah managed only a “light and non-deterrent” response to Ahmad’s remark.

“If leaders of any component parties who uttered such racist statement could be let off so lightly just like that, how can the BN leadership ensure that such racist statement will not be uttered again by any other BN political leader, be it in UMNO or any party in future. We therefore call on the UMNO and BN leadership to review its stance against Datuk Ahmad Ismail and give the public a satisfactory answer.”

In Petaling Jaya, DAP said they have simultaneously lodged police reports in all states against Ahmad.

DAP Selangor's secretary and Kampung Tunku Assemblyman Lau Weng San lodged the report at the Petaling Jaya police station at 12.43 noon.

He said they are not satisfied with the explanation given by the prime minister.

MP for PJ Utara Tony Pua said citizenship cannot be questioned and if it is questioned it is seditious and against the law.

He spoke on Clause 3 (1) (e) and (e) of Seditious Act and Federal Constitution on the citizenship.

In GEORGE TOWN, DAP Socialist Youth lodged a similar police report, urging action against Ahmad under Section 3(1)(e) of the Sedition Act 1948.

Dapsy Tanjung division secretary Ng Wei Aik, who is also the chief minister’s political secretary, made the report at the George Town district police headquarters at 11.39am yesterday. He called on Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan to state police’s stand on the matter.

“The law is fair to everyone, whether it is a member of the opposition or the Barisan Nasional (BN),” Ng said.

He was accompanied by Sri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer, Dapsy national executive committee member Teh Lai Heng, and Dapsy Bukit Mertajam division chief Tan Khong Chong.

Ng said Ahmad’s reported comment that Chinese were “squatters” in Malaysia and therefore could not enjoy equality with others had “injured the feelings of the Chinese community.”

“We gave him until Aug 31 to retract his statement and apologise, but he has refused to do so,” Ng told reporters later.

Ng also defended the reference to the Sedition Act in his report.

He said the Act, which had previously been used against opposition figures like DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and DAP chairman Karpal Singh, was legally applicable until another legislation like a proposed Anti-Hatred Act was in place.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Holiday on Sept 16 next year, says Penang CM - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Sept 1, 2008 By WINNIE YEOH

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government would definitely make Sept 16 a public holiday.

He, however, said the day would probably only be made a holiday next year.

“We probably cannot have it this year as we already declared a public holiday on Aug 26. We have to take the business industry into consideration, as a day off would greatly impact the sector,” he said Monday after attending a drainage cleanliness campaign in Tanjung Bungah near here.

Lim said this in response to PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s proposal that all Pakatan Rakyat states make Sept 16 a public holiday.

Anwar had said the Government should declare Sept 16 as a public holiday to mark the anniversary of Malaysia’s formation as it was the day when Sabah and Sarawak joined the country in 1963.

He proposed that all states ruled by Pakatan Rakyat declare the day as a public holiday.

“Let us start our celebration on Aug 31 and end it on Sept 16,” he had said in his speech at a thanksgiving feast at the Seberang Jaya Expo site on Sunday to celebrate his victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election

Police reports lodged against Ahmad - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Sept 1, 2008 By BERNARD SEE and STEVEN DANIEL

Komtar assemblyman Ng We Aik has lodged a police report against Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail, who allegedly called the Chinese pendatang (immigrants) during a ceramah in Permatang Pauh on Aug 25.

Ng said Ahmad's statement had hurt the feelings of all Malaysian-Chinese in the country and he should not be let off with just a light slap on the wrist.

"The DAP wants Umno leaders to take stern action against him; moreover, the police should also investigate him under Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act 1948.

"DAP divisions in Selangor, Perak, Negri Sembilan and Malacca have been told to lodge police reports against Ahmad, whose statement is liable to cause disharmony in a united society," he told reporters after a lodging a report at the Patani Road police station on Monday with Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N Rayer, DAP national Socialist Youth (Dapsy) Bukit Mertajam chief Tan Khong Chong and Dapsy national executive committee member Teh Lai Heng.

Rayer said that while the DAP supports freedom of speech, this did not mean that one could make statements that insulted other races.

"We had asked Ahmad to retract his statement and issue an apology but till now he just kept quiet about it. He has also been missing and no one has seen him over the past few days," Rayer said.

A police spokesman said the report would be handed over to the Bukit Mertajam investigating officer for further action.

In PETALING JAYA, Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lau Weng San also lodged a police report, accompanied by DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua, Selangor executive councillor Ronnie Liu and several supporters.

Lau said Ahmad should apologise and retract his statement, and also urged the party whip to take disciplinary action against Ahmad as a lesson that seditious remarks which could destabilise the country's unity would not be tolerated.

"I also urge the police to conduct their own investigations into this matter and I hope appropriate action would be taken against him to quell the anger of the people," Lau said.

Melting pot of harmony - Star

Sept 1, 2008 By CHRISTINA CHIN

MULTI-CULTURAL unity took centre stage during the state-level National Day celebrations in Penang on Sunday.

Clad in traditional costumes, 150 cultural performers added a dash of colour to the coastal road in front of Queensbay Mall.

The mall’s front entrance on Persiaran Bayan Indah was filled with students, avid photographers and Penangites keen on catching the National Day parade.

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi was spotted — not among the VIPs, but among the professional photographers with their SLR (single lens reflex) cameras and bulky equipment.

Ooi admitted to having a soft spot for the latest cameras.

On the main dais, with the iconic Penang Bridge standing proudly behind it, were Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas and his consort Toh Puan Majimor Shariff, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, several elected representatives and their spouses.

To mark the start of the celebration, the Rukunegara was recited and seven shouts of “Merdeka!” broke the silence of the clear, blue morning.

Colourful show: Performers in traditional costumes parading at the coastal road in front of Queensbay Mall.

A traditional Malay kampung ‘house’ (an elaborate prop) served as the stage, while a huge Jalur Gemilang that draped the mall, provided a patriotic backdrop for the Semarak Merdeka cultural show.

Featuring a combination of songs, sketches, boria and sajak presentations, the show was a summary of Penang’s history and traditional heritage.

The main event — a procession of 7,672 participants from 96 contingents — was up next.

All the participants were from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), uniformed bodies, schools and learning institutions, and the private and public sectors.

In full camouflage: The armed forces contingent marching in the parade.

While the school bands impressed the crowd with their musical talent and well-rehearsed marches, the armed forces, po- lice and rescue and fire department drew loud cheers as they showed off their artillery and vehicles.

The huge fire trucks, rescue boats and jet skis as well as the newly-polished superbikes were among the wheels that were on parade.

Wearing everything from spiffy uniforms to vibrant batik shirts and formal kebaya, the participants seemed oblivious to the sweltering heat as they sang and waved to the crowd.

The crowd watching a band marching past.

Prizes were later presented to the top three NGOs and uniformed bodies, school bands, private sector organisations, institutes of higher learning and training institutes, and government departments.

The champions of each of the five categories were: Former Malaysian Armed Forces Regiment (NGOs and uniform bodies category); SM Heng Ee (school bands category); Agilent Technologies (private sector organisations category); Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda) Training Institute (institutes of higher learning and training institutes category); and the Inland Revenue Board (government departments category).

More than 150 policemen, enforcement officers from the Penang Municipal Council, Rela members and Civil Defence Department officers, were deployed to control the traffic and crowd.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guan Eng and aide lodge police report over death threats - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Aug 26, 2008

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his political secretary Ng Wei Aik said they have received a death threats for exposing land scams.

They said they received a letter, written in Chinese and in red ink, warning them that they would not be alive after the Hungry Ghost Festival, which ends Aug 30.

Lim said the letter addressed to Lim and Ng was sent to the chief minister's Komtar office on Thursday. Both men lodged a police report at the Petani Road police station at 9.13am yesterday.

Lim said that despite the threats the state government would continue to expose land scams.

The letter read: “You are both mad dogs, smelly dogs who are barking incessantly. Do you know how the word ‘death’ is written? God is seeing everything you are doing. Both of you will definitely get what you deserve, especially Wei Aik, because too many people want to finish you off. Perhaps, you won’t be alive anymore after the Hungry Ghost Festival.”

The writer signed off as a Penangite. The writer also enclosed two articles dated Aug 16 from a Chinese daily.

The first article was on Lim questioning his predecessor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon about financial loss incurred by Penang Development Corporation. The other one was about Ng asking Dr Koh not to play with the people’s emotions by fishing for their sympathy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Many Penangites skipped live telecast of debate - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Aug 21, 2008 By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG

While many Penangites were glued to their television sets for the debate on land issues between the current and former chief ministers, many others gave the live telecast a skip.

A street poll here showed that many did not catch the live debate on Wednesday night between Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his predecessor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Those who did catch The True Story Behind the Land Controversy in Penang said they were dissatisfied that there was no definite conclusion reached at the end of the programme.

Convenience store worker Azlan Rahim, 24, said he felt frustrated with the outcome.

"The reason I watched the debate was because I wanted a clearer picture of the situation. It was also a chance to see our new and old leaders respond to each other," he said.

He added that he would have preferred to watch a live debate on other matters such as the welfare of the rakyat and Penang's infrastructure, rather than on the land issue although it involved millions of ringgit.

Insurance agent Annie Cheong, 33, said she was eager to watch the debate but felt let down after that: "I don't think there is any result from the debate. It's just the same things I read in the newspapers. Nothing new."

She said that instead of a debate, it should have been a live call-in programme to answer questions from the public.

Programme consultant Suriany Che Ani, 31, complained that both sides kept highlighting the same points again and again.

"If both of them were to debate again, I think they better do it in English instead. Although they both speak Bahasa Malaysia well, they would have been able to express what they wanted to say better in English," she added.

College lecturer Tan Ching Mei, 32, said the beginning of the programme was boring but the pace picked up after a while.

"I was not one of those keenly anticipating the debate. I just watched the programme for a chance to hear both sides at the same time and know what is happening," she said, adding that she missed the ending, as she was busy.

Her colleague Prakash Vello, 38, said he was sorry he missed the debate even though he heard from others that it was inconclusive.

"This was an opportunity for both parties to shed light on the matter," he added.

Auctioneer Angeline Woo, 32, said she badly wanted to watch the debate but had other matters to attend to.

"I heard that it was an intense debate with no conclusion," she said.

Chong Wei ‘manipulated’ by BN, says Guan Eng - Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 21, 2008 By SIM LEOI LEOI

Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei has clearly been "manipulated" by the Barisan Nasional when he agreed to receive his RM300,000 cheque in Permatang Pauh.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said there was no need to send Lee back to Permatang Pauh using an airplane provided by the Defence Ministry and landing at an airforce base for the purpose of the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign.

"In fact, I understand that he's back here today. Why can't the cheque presentation take place in Kuala Lumpur?

"It's quite clear that he's been manipulated and Barisan is using the ceremony to their advantage for the campaign.

"Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has also been using the ministry's facilities in his campaign by flying to Penang.

"The use of the Defence Ministry's facilities for the by-election is improper, a form of abuse and a waste of public funds," he told reporters Thursday at the Parliament lobby here.

Lim said on the contrary, neither he nor any other DAP members use their official state cars when they go campaigning.

"We drive our own private cars. This should be the way. Clearly, Barisan has not learnt its lesson from the March 8 general election," he said.

The badminton player received the cheque from Najib in a ceremony in Butterworth on Wednesday night.

He also received RM3,000 being the pension reward the Government had promised for the feat. The payments which begin next month are for life.

Lim said Najib should differentiate between private political interest and his government posts.

Asked about the conferment by Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas of the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN) award on Lee on Aug 30, which carries the title "Datuk", Lim said the ceremony would take place after the polling date in Permatang Pauh.

"This is because we don't want to be seen as taking advantage of him," he said.

On the clash between Chong Eng (DAP - Bukit Mertajam) and Zulkifli Nordin (PKR - Kulim-Bandar Baru) in Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, Lim said it was up to PKR to discipline the latter.

In the disagreement between Chong and Zulkifli on the Bar Council "Conversion to Islam" forum, the latter had called Chong "racist" and "anti-Islam".

Lim said he knew for a fact that Chong was not racist as her husband is an Indian and she is extremely popular with Malay voters in her constituency.

"I am disappointed with Zulkifli. I would expect such a statement to come from Umno and not from him - a PKR member," he said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dr Koh: BN state govt had near perfect land record - Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 21, 2008

Penang under the Barisan Nasional government had a near-perfect record in handling land matters if not for five to seven "botched" cases, former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said.

He said the state Exco's performance would have been more than 99.9% if not for the botched cases in a debate entitled The True Story Behind the Land Controversy in Penang organised by online media Agenda Daily. In replying to the land scam allegations by current Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that the previous state government was still trying to cover up their tracks, Dr Koh said: "Don't use two or three cases to blame the previous government and tarnish our name.

"Every year the state Exco solved more than 500 land papers, which meant that in 15 years it was almost 10,000 cases. If there were mistakes in not more than seven cases, our performance is already 99.9%," Koh said yesterday.

His debate opponent Lim Guan Eng, however, had a cynical reply at hand.

"It's worrying enough to have only six or seven cases as it already involves up to millions of ringgit," he said.

Lim had also questioned Dr Koh repeatedly as to why the officer involved in the RM40mil botched land deal was only given a warning, to which Dr Koh replied that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had investigated the matter twice, but did not have "solid evidence that a crime had occurred".

Dr Koh then took his turn to pry Lim instead.

Dr Koh: The case is still open. The Chief Minister can still take action. Why has he not conducted a deeper investigation than the one done by the previous government?

Lim: Why didn't we do more internal investigations? It's double jeopardy. How can we punish him twice for the same mistake? But in the first place, why was he let off with only a warning?

To a question that Lim had also accused Koh of leaving him with an empty office without any files, Dr Koh replied: "His accusation is altogether baseless. The Chief Minister's office on the 28th floor (of the Komtar Building in Penang) is 4,267sq metres (14,000 sq ft). And the Chief Minister's office alone is less than 609 sq metres (2000sq ft).

"But most important is the bilik sulit (private room). In the office there are thousands of files. This is a case of shooting before looking, and one that causes misunderstanding to the rakyat," he said.

Chong Wei to get Datukship - NST

PENANG, WED: Aug 20, 2008

Penang will award shuttler Lee Chong Wei, the state’s first Olympic silver medallist, with the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN) award, which carries the title Datuk, on Aug 30.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said Chong Wei was being honoured because he had done not only Penang but also Malaysia proud with his achievement as the first Penangite to win a silver medal at the world’s biggest sports event.

“Even though Malaysians were disappointed that he failed to win the gold medal, we are proud of his singular achievement which has brought joy to both state and country,” he said at a news conference here today.

He said the Penang state government hoped that this recognition of his achievement would spur Choong Wei to break more records and achieve greater success to win greater glory for both Penang and Malaysia.

Lim said Governor Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas consented to award the Datukship to Chong Wei in his meeting with the chief minister at the governor’s residence, Seri Mutiara, here yesterday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Penang orders review of 10-year-old Bayan Lepas land deal - Star

BUTTERWORTH: Aug 14, 2008

The state government has ordered a review of a 10-year-old deal involving industrial land in Bayan Lepas brokered during the previous state administration that resulted in the state losing RM500,000.

“The company paid a RM1mil deposit, which was 20% of the land price. When they could not pay the balance, 10% of their deposit was forfeited.

“The state should have made a profit of RM500,000 from the forfeited deposit but instead, it used the money to pay a financial institution to get back the land,” Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters after launching the DAP’s Permatang Pauh by-election operations room.

“No explanation was given. We don’t know what happened and I’ve asked for a review. Why did we lose RM500,000?” he said.

Lim had previously unveiled two cases that he claimed could have caused RM124mil in losses to the state.

Lim and former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon are set to debate on the state's land issues on Aug 20.

RM1 mil PDC blunder - Sun

SEBERANG PERAI (Aug 13, 2008) By Himanshu Bhatt

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng spiced up the run-up to the Permatang Pauh by-election by disclosing yet another land transaction blunder by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) state government.

Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, revealed that a company related to a "big" BN personality had been unduly given RM500,000 as deposit refund by the Penang Development Corporation (PDC).

But it made a mistake by giving the money directly to the buyer, instead of the buyer's financing institution.

The PDC was then forced to fork out an additional RM500,000 to pay the financial institution, Lim disclosed. The company folded up without returning the money it had taken, he added.

The refund was given after the company failed to make full payment for a piece of land in the Bayan Lepas industrial area that it bought from the PDC.

Lim questioned why no action was taken in this case that occurred 10 years ago.

"Why was such an error allowed to happen?" he asked.

He said this while opening the DAP’s Permatang Pauh by-election operation centre here.

At a separate event, former chief minister and acting Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon declined to comment except to say that the facts would be made known in due course.

"Let Lim reveal whatever he wants to reveal," Koh said.

Lim earlier explained that the company had paid a 20% deposit to obtain the land, but when it could not pay the remaining 80%, it appealed that its deposit not be forfeited.

The PDC then decided to return half the deposit amounting to RM500,000.

Lim said he has asked for an internal investigation and that the case be reviewed.

"We (Pakatan Rakyat) want to have a new approach in government. We have to start cleaning up all the dirt," he said.

He also cautioned that the PKR cannot be guaranteed victory in the by-election, and asked supporters not to be over-confident.

"We have to work hard to convince the people that this by-election is important for the future of Permatang Pauh, the state and the country.

"This is the first time a by-election will determine the design of the government not just for the state, but for the whole nation."

On a complaint by Umno that the returning officer’s administration in Permatang Pauh had been infiltrated by the opposition in the last general election, Lim questioned why such an issue was being brought up now.

"If they were unhappy, they should have filed an election petition," he said.

"Why complain now?" he asked.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CM and former CM to debate land controversy - Star

PETALING JAYA: Aug 12, 2008 By TEH ENG HOCK

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his predecessor Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon have agreed to debate the land controversy in Penang.

Organiser Agenda Daily said both participants had on Tuesday confirmed their attendance for the public debate, which will take place at 9pm on Aug 20.

Lim and Koh had also agreed on the topic of the debate, which is entitled "The true story behind the land controversy in Penang" (Kisah benar kontroversi tanah di Pulau Pinang).

The debate will also be aired live on either NTV7 or TV9.

Agenda Daily editor Hanafiah Man said about 200 people would be invited to attend the event, which would either be held at the Media Prima studio in Shah Alam or at Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka in Kuala Lumpur.

"It is only by invitation as we have to control the crowd. If anyone is interested in attending, they can fax Agenda Daily at 03-4042 5100," he said.

Hanafiah said the format of the debate would be similar to the recent public debate on fuel prices by Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek and PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on July 15.

Lim and Koh will each speak during six five-minute intervals in the debate, which will be moderated by Datuk Johan Jaafar.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Penang seeks RM200mil soft loan for conservation - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Aug 8, 2008

Penang is seeking a RM200mil soft loan from the Federal Government for its heritage conservation action plan after it was listed as one of the world’s heritage site.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he sent a letter on this to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday.

“The loan will enable the state government and private owners to conserve and repair heritage buildings here.”

He said the action plan would be implemented in stages to ensure success and effectiveness.

Lim also urged Abdullah to note that such a loan was approved for RM80mil in 2000 for the previous state government’s urban renewal and restoration of decontrolled pre-war houses programme.

“In the same year, the first round of loans amounting to RM20mil was given out. However, in view of poor awareness among the locals, the loans did not get much response and were returned with interest to the federal government in 2004,” he said.

With the George Town’s Unesco listing and increasing public awareness, the state greatly hoped its appeal for the loan would be granted, he said.

Copies of the letter were distributed to the media during Lim’s press conference Friday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Report dirty eateries, council urges public - Star

Aug 7, 2008 By WINNIE YEOH

THE public will have to take on a ‘watchdog role’ and report dirty and unhygienic eateries to the authorities whenever they come across such places.

Penang Island Municipal Council’s (MPPP) Urban Ser- vices, Public Health and Licensing department director Dr Goh Kok Yeung said public tip-off would come in handy as the council’s enforcement officers who conduct checks on restaurants, food outlets and street hawkers every week had a large area to cover.

He also said since January, the council had issued about 3,000 compounds to food operators who flouted health regulations and guidelines.

Dr Goh also said the council was continuously conducting awareness programmes for food operators and handlers for free to encourage cleanliness.

Keep your eyes peeled:Fill the tummy but tell on hawkers who fail to uphold hygienic food handling practices.

“It is compulsory for them to attend the programme and they have to be vacci- nated for a minimal charge of RM20,” he said, adding that the council vaccinates an average of 6,000 food operators and handlers yearly.

He said so far the council had not revoked any operation licences but had issued warnings to stall operators who failed to comply with the council’s regulations like wearing aprons and protective caps, gloves, using utensils when handling foods and having proper disposal bins .

He also said each offender would be fined RM20 to RM80 depending on the gravity of the offence.

“These stall operators might ‘behave’ when our officers are there but do otherwise after we leave,” he added.

He also said the council was working closely with the private sector to relocate some hawker stalls to a suitable site

He added that public tip-offs on dirty eateries could be channelled to MPPP’s 24-hour hotline at 04-2637637.

Dr Koh and Guan Eng to debate Aug 20 - Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 7, 2008

The open debate between acting Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is on.

It will be organised by news portal Agenda Daily on Aug 20 in Shah Alam, at a venue be announced later.

The debate, to be aired live by a television station belonging to the Media Prima Group, will touch on various current issues with specific focus on matters related to Penang, including the so-called "land scam controversy" which is being heard in court.

"Both sides have agreed on the location (Shah Alam). They have agreed that the debate would be in Bahasa Malaysia, based on the US presidential debate format and moderated by Datuk Johan Jaafar," Agenda Daily news editor Hanafiah Man said.

However, they had yet to reach a consensus on the title for the debate although they had agreed that the topics should be current and concerning Penang, he added.

The news portal had earlier set up a debate between Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek and PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the fuel price hike and its socio-economic implications. The debate, also moderated by Johan, was held last month at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka here and was aired by several TV stations.

This will be the second meeting between Dr Koh and Lim in a debate. They had their first discourse 20 years ago at the Penang Town Hall when both were Youth leaders of Gerakan and DAP respectively.

When contacted on Thursday night, Lim hoped that Dr Koh would not set any conditions for the debate.

He also said it should be on the land scam issue in Penang.

"What the people want to know is about the land scam. If you want to debate on other issues, it will defeat the purpose," he said. - Bernama

CM signs miniature boat - Star

Aug 6, 2008

A MINIATURE dragon boat made of aluminium cans caught the attention of spectators at the Dragon Boat Races at Teluk Bahang Dam on Sunday.

And the owner was eagerly waiting for Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to autograph the boat.

Construction worker Yeoh Seng Hoo was waiting for Lim to arrive at the 6th International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships (IDBF CCWC) and 8th Asian Dragon Boat Championships.

Lim (centre) autographing Yeoh's miniature dragon boat.

Lim was accompanying Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman to grace the function.

“It took me three months and 30 aluminium cans to complete the miniature boat,” Yeoh said, referring to his masterpiece that was made of recycled materials.

Aluminium cans were used to make the base of the boat, tissue paper for the dragon’s head and tail and newspapers to make the six dolls sitting in the boat.

“I hope this boat will remind the Chief Minister of the need to promote recycling,” he said.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Debate unconditionally, Guan Eng tells Dr Koh - Star

GEORGE TOWN: Aug 5, 2008 By LOOI SUE-CHERN

Former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon should debate on the state's land scams during his administration without setting pre-conditions, said his successor Lim Guan Eng.

"Dr Koh should be decisive and make up his mind whether he wants to debate the RM124mil twin land scams in Penang instead of desperately setting conditions and making excuses," Lim said Tuesday.

He was commenting on the two conditions set by Dr Koh on Monday for a debate between him and Lim. Dr Koh had asked that the debate be conducted fairly and only after the conclusion of a court hearing on a land scam case involving a RM40mil suit.

"Why should Dr Koh behave differently by imposing all sorts of conditions when he should debate like a true opposition member seeking the truth, promoting public participation and accountability?" Lim told a press conference.

"It is clear that this act is politically motivated as part of Barisan Nasional's preparations for the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election."

He also accused Dr Koh of trying to "gag" him by demanding that he immediately retract and stop mentioning the potential loss of RM40mil due to a land scam that occurred during the previous administration.

"If he does not want to debate on the scams, the state government is willing to meet him privately to get to the bottom of this scandal."

Lim clarified that he had never issued a challenge to Dr Koh for a debate but said he would take part in one if that was the only way for Dr Koh to come clean on the land issues.

He also said he had requested to meet with Dr Koh privately many times since becoming Chief Minister in March but the latter had yet to meet him.

"The recent admission by a former deputy chief minister and state Land Committee chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the previous state government made a mistake on one of the land scams and his accepting full responsibility for it leaves Dr Koh no choice but to concede that the state government faces a potential RM40mil loss.

"Why didn't Dr Koh come clean about it when the scam happened five years ago instead of waiting for a change of government to have it exposed? This may be interpreted as an attempt to cover up."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hilmi admits RM40 million blunder - Sun

GEORGE TOWN (July 28, 2008) : By Himanshu Bhatt

Former deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya today admitted responsibility in the Penang State Assembly to a land deal blunder that will cost the state government some RM40 million.

Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi, the BN assemblyman for Teluk Bahang, surprised the assembly when he stood up to take responsibility for the "error" which occurred when he was the Religion, Land, Planning and Development Programmes Committee chairman from 1999 to 2004.

He said this when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Air Putih) was reporting to the assembly about their findings into several land transactions that went awry because of "negligence" and poor decision making, costing total estimated losses of RM124 million to the state.

"I feel responsible because the error happened then," said Hilmi. "An error occurred and the decision was already made."

According to Lim, this particular case may bring losses worth RM40 million while losses from the other cases involving questionable land acquisitions (collectively investigated as they involved the same government officer) amounted to RM84 million.

Lim revealed in his winding-up speech that the previous administration had approved a 10.6 acres (4.3ha) plot to an individual, apparently a quarry operator.

"A plot of land as big as 10.6 acres is too large to be given only to an individual, which should not have happened," he said.

The case was brought to the courts when the state government cancelled the transfer of the land, he said. "Due to this, the state government incurred losses when the court’s decision sided with the concerned individual."

Lim said a negotiation process to settle the case out of court was held. "In the negotiation process, at one stage the concerned individual agreed to receive compensation that was far lower, which was RM1.8 million, but the previous state government did not agree."

He added the court later ordering the state to pay RM29 million (reduced from RM40 million on appeal).

With interests accruing at a rate of 8% per annum since 2004, the losses incurred from this case may touch RM40 million, Lim said.

"This is another case that has caused losses to the state government and wasted the rakyat’s money due to negligence and improper decision-making."

Lim said the other cases involved "embezzlement" in land acquisitions.

Although the acquisitions were done according to legal procedure, the state government was forced to bear RM84 million in subsequent losses, he said.

In one instance, the payment award by the land administrator was not in accordance with the amount recommended by the Valuation and Property Services

Department, Lim pointed out.

Lim said investigations are underway before appropriate action, including reports to the police and Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), are made.

"While investigations are underway, the government officer suspected to be involved, has been transferred to another department."

He stressed that the reports must be based on evidence that is "beyond reasonable doubt".

Lim thanked Hilmi for confessing to the mistake in the quarry case and for taking responsibility.

"If you have new evidence, please raise them and we will see how we can help," he said.

Datuk Jahara Hamid (BN-Telok Ayer Tawar) stood up to ask how such cases could be prevented.

With a broad smile, Lim simply replied: "Gunakan CAT (use CAT)! Competency, accountability, transparency!"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Penang may ask to buy Toyota Camry as official cars - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jul 26, 2008 By NG SU-ANN

Penang might buy Toyota Camry cars in future for official use, said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

He said Penang might buy the cars, which he said were cheaper than Proton Perdana V6, after seeking Federal Government approval.

"Since Terengganu is allowed to keep 14 Mercedes-Benzes costing RM3.43mil, Penang should be allowed to buy Toyota cars in future," he told newsmen Saturday at the clan jetties' open house in Weld Quay.

Lim described the decision to allow Terengganu to keep its Mercedes-Benzes to be used for foreign dignitaries as inappropriate and a waste of money especially when many people were suffering during the economic slowdown.

"This doesn't make sense. What's the regularity of foreign dignitaries visiting Terengganu? How often do even the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or Sultans visit the state?

"If the cars are not going to be used often, what's the point of keeping them? This is an example of how public funds are misused by Barisan Nasional leaders. A leopard can't change its spots," he added.

Lim said he was surprised that no action would be taken against Terengganu for defying the federal directive that stated that Proton Perdana was the official car for executive council members and ex-officio members.

In March, the new Penang government had cancelled an order for five new Perdana V6 cars worth RM623,000 ordered by the previous administration for its exco members.

Lim said: "Instead of buying new cars, we had cancelled the orders. Instead of buying new Perdanas, Terengganu had bought Mercedes Benzes.

"Who doesn't want to sit in new cars? However, I believe that as long as a car, even if it's an old boneshaker, can still move, that's good enough," he said, adding that his official car was 14 years old.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Open tender for govt magazine - The Star

Jul 25, 2008

THE publication of Suara Rakyat Pulau Pinang, a state government magazine that keeps readers abreast of state policies and developments, will soon be open for tender.

State ad-hoc information committee head Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said any company could apply to publish the magazine starting from its second edition that will be released in September.

“We are planning on changing certain aspects of the magazine and are currently identifying things we want in the new edition,” he told reporters during the lunch break of the state assembly sitting.

He said the new publication would incorporate views and suggestions of the rakyat, adding that the state was looking into changing the format and concept of the publication.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng launched Suara Rakyat, a 52-page trilingual publication, on Wednes-day as an incorporated version of three state-published magazines – Wawasan Rakyat, Hong Yuan (Vision), Makkal Madal (Message to the Rakyat).

Abdul Malik said the printers of the three magazines were retained to print the first edition of Suara Rakyat but they would have to submit tender applications for future editions.

On criticism from opposition leader Datuk Azhar Ibrahim that the publication’s annual RM276,000 allocation could be better used, Abdul Malik said Suara Rakyat was an important communication tool for the state government.

“The previous state administration was spending this amount but they did not say it was wasting the money then. Moreover, the state will be able to get a much better price for the publication after going through the tender process,” he said.

He added that RM85,000 was spent to publish 20,000 copies of the first edition.

“The editorial board, which consists of media members, non-governmental organisations and representatives, will meet after the state assembly sittings and we hope to start the tendering process in mid-August,” he said.

Take a pay cut, Guan Eng and exco members told - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jul 25, 2008

Take a 10% pay cut if Pakatan Rakyat is serious about helping the rakyat –that is the message Datuk Roslan Saidin (BN – Pinang Tunggal) has for Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

He said the money could then be used to lighten the people’s burden.

“Lim and all his state executive council members should take a pay cut instead of harping about their CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) philosophy.

“The state has been talking about travelling economy class and all but what is it really doing for the people?

“The state is playing politics just for publicity’s sake when it should be concentrating on improving the lives of the people,” he said.

Roslan, who was debating a motion of thanks on the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s speech, later challenged Deputy Chief Minister (I) Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin to come up with a blueprint ensuring development for bumiputras.

“Tell us what social, economic and educational development you are going to bring for the Malays who cannot even afford low-cost housing?” he asked.

At this point, A. Thanasekaran (DAP – Bagan Dalam) interjected, saying that housing problems were not confined to one race.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

‘Voice of unity’ launched - The Star

Jul 24, 2008

SUARA Rakyat Pulau Pinang - the state's magazine, is a step towards fulfilling the Penang Government's dreams and hopes for the state, said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The 52-page Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil publication is aimed at making Penang an inter-national city where everyone can participate in the sharing of the state’s wealth.

“We want to create a caring society and one that is fair to all. We want to let the people know the opportunities that are available in all sectors. We welcome all feedback and opinions,” he said, commenting on the purpose of the magazine.

The magazine was launched by Lim at the state legislative assembly yesterday morning.

Lim flicking through the Suara Rakyat Pulau Pinang.

State ad hoc information committee head Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said the trilingual magazine represented a voice of unity.

“We printed 20,000 copies of the first issue to be distributed free to all government agencies, village security and development committees, Rukun Tetangga sectors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“This is only a start. Of course, we will improve on the look and content later on,” he said, adding that an editorial board would be set up after the assembly sitting.

“By next month we will have an editorial board comprising members of the media, NGOs and elected representatives,” he said adding that comments and suggestions could be sent to abdmalik@penang.gov.my.

“For now we will have three issues a year but eventually we may progress to six issues a year before coming out with monthly copies,” he said.

Opposition leader Datuk Azhar Ibrahim described the publication as a “political propaganda”.

“I estimate each copy to cost about RM5. The state is planning to print three issues a year so that would cost about RM300,000. This money can be put to better use.

“The articles that are in the magazine have already been published in newspapers so I don’t see the point.

“Instead we should be supporting a magazine like In Penang which highlights our heritage sites and is also distributed free,” he said, adding that In Pe-nang only cost the state RM25,000 per year and yet funding had been discontinued.

He noted that the previous state government had also published magazines in three languages.

“Not all the languages are in one magazine but it is still the people's voice,” he said.

In 2002, Barisan Nasional published a bimonthly Tamil magazine, Makkal Madal (Message to the Rakyat), making it the first in the country to publish magazines in three languages – Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

Similar to the Malay and Chinese state-published magazines – Wawasan Rakyat and Hong Yuan (Vision), the magazine is to inform readers of government policies, development plans and also get feedback from the community.

Wawasan Rakyat was published in 1994 while Hong Yuan, in 1999.

All three free publications targeted similar readers of Suara Rakyat.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Penang Umno wants road signs in Chinese removed - NST

PENANG: Jul 23, 2008

PROJECTING DIVERSITY: Tanjung Umno Youth chief Shaharrudin Hassan (second from left) and other Youth members taking a look at a Chinese road sign put up by Gerakan members.

Penang Umno wants six road signs in Chinese put up by Gerakan Youth in Georgetown on Monday to be removed as soon as possible.

The state Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim said he had contacted Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman on the matter.

“If they (Gerakan Youth) refuse to take down the road signs, Datuk Zainal assured me that MPPP will pull them down,” said Azhar, who is also Penaga assemblyman.

He was commenting on Penang Umno Youth’s protest against the move by a group of Gerakan members who put up six road signs in Chinese here to tell the DAP that it had to come up with such road signs since the party was now helming the state.

The state Umno Youth urged the local government and government agencies to only allow road signs in the national language.

Penang Government agrees to multi-language signs for tourists’ benefit - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jul 23 , 2008 By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG

The state government plans to put up street names and road signs in multiple languages at heritage areas here for the benefit of tourists and visitors.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Environment Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said yesterday that the languages would depend on the cultural characteristics of the streets in question.

“There have been requests for road signs in various languages now that George Town has received Unesco recognition as a world heritage site. The state has, in principle, agreed to have signs in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese and Tamil, and maybe even Arabic,” he said.

Chinese signs: Penang residents riding past one of the six new road signs in George Town yesterday. The six signs were put up by a group of Gerakan members on Monday.

Chow noted that the Federal Government had also approved an allocation to put up signboards in various languages around George Town.

On the six street signs put up by several Gerakan members, led by former Penang Municipal Council councillor Dr Thor Teong Ghee, Chow said he had instructed the council to give notice to the group to remove them.

“The council will advise them to take down the signs themselves, unlike in the past when the council under the previous administration used to pull down signs put up by the DAP within two hours,” said Chow.

On Monday, Dr Thor and six others put up the road signs in Chinese to remind the DAP that it had to keep its word to come up with such road signs now that the party was helming the state. The six signs were for Beach Street, Burmah Road, Macalister Road, Carnarvon Street, Chulia Street and Jalan C.Y. Choy.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said there was no reason for anyone to politicise the issue as this was the people's aspiration. He likened the need to have multilingual road signs to the multilingual announcements at airports which were a necessity.

However, Tanjung Umno Youth division chief Shaharrudin Hassan urged the local government and government agencies to only allow road signs in the national language.

“If the Malays can compromise with not having road signs in Jawi or Arabic, we do not see why the other races cannot practise a similar thing,” he said.

When contacted, Dr Thor said he would wait for the council's notice, but hoped that the signs could remain until the council put up its own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Koh's administration accused of bridge defect cover-up - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (July 22, 2008) : By Opalyn Mok

The Penang State Assembly was told today the the previous state government had covered up the fact that some couplings for the Penang Bridge had been badly damaged and the bridge could have collapsed if not repaired.

"The previous state government kept this secret and the safety of the people was ignored," state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh (DAP - Sungai Puyu) told the House today.

Phee did not give details on when the damage took place and when it was repaired. Couplings are devices that link the segments that make up a bridge.

"It is due to this that the Opposition should actually support the Penang second bridge project as we would need an alternative," said Phee, who had interjected into Opposition leader Datuk Azhar Ibrahim's (BN - Penaga) debate on the motion of thanks to the Penang Yang di-Pertua for his speech at the opening of the assembly.

Azhar, who was arguing against the need for a second bridge for Penang, then replied that the matter was kept secret because the previous state government did not want to create widespread panic amongst the people.

"We did the repair work. See! it did not collapse at all," said Azhar, a former state executive councillor in the previous state government.

" We can't be announcing to the whole world just because of a few cracks," said Azhar who accused Phee of acting like a small child.

During the state assembly meeting in November last year, Jasmin Mohamad (BN-Sungai Dua) had asked for a full report as he had heard of serious structural cracks on the Penang Bridge.

Then Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had said he had not received any report on cracks on the bridge and that the repair work on the bridge at that time was the usual maintenance work to replace the cables.

Contacted today, a spokesperson for Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd said the bridge undergoes scheduled maintenance and monitoring work annually.

"There were no such thing as cracks or anything of that nature at all," she said, denying they had to repair cracks under the guise of maintenance work.

Earlier, Azhar said there are 1.78 million vehicles in Penang and if there is an additional bridge, it would cause even more congestion on the island.

To this, Public Works, Utilities and Transport exco Lim Hock Seng (DAP - Bagan Jermal) said there are actually 2.3 million vehicles registered in the state.

"The traffic congestion on the bridge is very serious now and if we do not build the second bridge, in one to two years' time, we will not be able to use the current bridge without sitting there to wait for two hours," he said.

Azhar said the figure of 1.78 million he quoted was obtained from the answer given to him by the current state government, to which Lim admitted he had miscalculated.

Meanwhile, Tan Cheong Heng (DAP – Padang Lallang) asked the government to explain why the cables in the middle of the Penang Bridge were being replaced now.

He noted that when the bridge was opened in 1985, it had been guaranteed to last 100 years.

Sparks fly over 'RM30m embezzlement' - The Sun

Himanshu Bhatt and Opalyn Mok at the Penang State Assembly yesterday

PENANG (July 22, 2008) :

State Opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim (BN-Penaga) today raised the ire of backbenchers and state executive councillors in the Penang State Assembly when he chose to use the word menyeleweng (embezzle) to describe the state government's move to waive summonses issued by both local councils here after taking over the state administration.

"The state government keeps talking about cutting costs, flying economy and cutting down wastage but it has menyeleweng RM30 million just like that so that all are happy," he said.

He had, earlier, listed out the total summonses waived by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) at 180,000 cases amounting to RM4.4 million for parking offences and 351,000 cases amounting to RM10.5 million issued to hawkers and petty traders.

The total summonses waived by the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) were 581,670 cases amounting to RM14.5 million for parking offences and 2,360 cases amounting to RM0.6 million issued to hawkers and petty traders.

Penang Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh (DAP-Sungai Puyu) stood up and asked Azhar to explain what he meant by menyeleweng RM30 million.

"This RM30 million in summonses should have been collected from the people but it was not collected, so this is menyeleweng. RM30 million was gone and that's menyeleweng," Azhar replied.

Phee stood up again and said Azhar should refer to a dictionary so that he knows the meaning of menyeleweng.

"Can he understand the meaning of menyeleweng? This is a wild accusation that the state had menyeleweng RM30 million when the state government did not take even a single sen," he said.

At this juncture, Speaker Abd Halim Hussain concurred by saying:

"So, this is not menyeleweng."

Azhar then stood up and changed his tune by stating that what he had meant was that the state government had menyeleweng from its responsibilities.

"The state government is supposed to collect the summonses but it did not do so," he said.

A.Tanasekharan (DAP-Bagan Dalam) then interjected that the RM30 million was the people's money and it was inside the people's pockets.

"We didn't take the people's money. We are not like the Barisan Nasional (BN) who like to say it is the people's money but they keep it and do not use it for the people's benefit," he said.

Shabudin Yahya (BN-Permatang Berangan) jumped into the fray to state that there is an Act to enable the state government to collect the summonses.

"The people will be the ones suffering because this money could have been used for their benefit," he said, adding that the state government kept saying it has no funds but it did not want to collect this RM30 million.

Jagdeep Singh Deo (DAP-Datuk Keramat) interjected and pointed at the Petronas profit that the BN government had but the funds did not go to the people.

"Why weren't part of the profits channeled to Penang?" he said, and asked Azhar to withdraw his menyeleweng accusation.

"Azhar asked where the RM30 million had gone, implying that the state government took the sum when we didn't. He should withdraw his statement," he said, adding that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has the right to give amnesty to the people to waive their summonses.

Phee agreed with Jagdeep and demanded Azhar to withdraw his statement as it was a baseless accusation.

What followed was more exchange of words between Shabudin, Phee, Azhar, Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya (BN-Telok Bahang), Datuk Jasmin Mohamed (BN-Sungai Dua, Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr P.Ramasamy (DAP-Perai) and even Lim (DAP-Air Putih).

Azhar denied that he said the state government had menyeleweng RM30 million but that the state had shirked its responsibilities.

Jagdeep then raised the Point of Order 13 (c) which prohibits them from uttering words that hurt the feelings of others in the state assembly.

Lim said the state government did not even take a single sen, what more RM30 million from the people and asked for Azhar to withdraw his statement.

Finally, Abd Halim interrupted to say that he will make a decision but again the backbenchers and Opposition started arguing until the Speaker silenced them all by raising Point of Order 28 where all assemblymen must be seated when the Speaker is talking.

"My decision is that menyeleweng is not a suitable word to be used in here so stop using it and stop discussing this matter," he said before instructing Azhar to continue with his debate.

Gerakan puts up road names in Chinese as reminders to state govt - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jul 22, 2008 By TAN SIN CHOW

A group of Gerakan members has put up six road signs in Chinese here to tell the DAP that it has to come up with such road signs since the party is now helming the state.


In what appears to be a tit-for-tat move, former Penang Municipal councillor Dr Thor Teong Ghee, who is a Penang Gerakan Youth committee member, said such road signs were now vital as George Town had been listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

“But now that they are at the helm, I sincerely hope they will keep their word by putting up such road signs,” he said before putting up one of the road signs in Chinese at Beach Street yesterday.

The other roads where the Gerakan members have put up roads signs in Chinese are Burmah Road, Macalister Road, Carnarvon Street, Chulia Street and Jalan C. Y. Choy.

Signing up: Dr Thor (third from right) and other Gerakan members showing the road signs in Chinese during a press conference at Beach Street. The signs were later put up under the original road signs at the six roads.

Interestingly, except for Jalan C.Y. Choy, the road signs are of the Chinese names used by locals to refer to these roads, and take into account trades or features peculiar to the road such as Lam Chan Ah (Muddy Padi Field) for Carnarvon Street which used to be home to padi fields in the early days of Penang.

Beach Street is referred to as Tho Kok Kay (Wholesale Street), Burmah Road (Chia Chooi Lor - Water Carriers Road), Macalister Road (Tiong Lor - Middle Road) and Chulia Street (Gu Kan Tang - Cattle Pen Street).

In June last year, Penang DAP Youth had put up road signs in Chinese at several roads to pressure the previous government to come up with Chinese road signs.

Dr Thor said that the Penang DAP youth wing had said the Chinese road signs could boost tourism, especially in attracting tourists from China.

Penang Municipal Council enforcement officers later took down the signs put up by the DAP members as they were illegally erected.

Dr Thor said although the Gerakan members had also illegally put up their road signs yesterday, he hoped this would serve as a reminder to the present state government.

“At least eight of the DAP members who supported the move for road signs in Chinese to be put up are now state assemblymen and, as such, should aggressively pursue its implementation,” he added.

When contacted, DAP national Socialist Youth (Dapsy) organising secretary Koay Teng Hai, who is also Pulau Tikus assemblyman, said Dapsy was not only proposing road signs in Chinese but in other languages as well.

He said Dapsy was in the midst of drafting a proposal on the matter before submitting it to the municipal council and state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow for approval.

“Apart from Chinese, we will also have road signs in Tamil and Jawi, depending on the cultural background of the area,” added Koay.

Penang State Assembly Live Telecast July 21 - July 31



The live telecast cab be viewed using the following link:

http://dunpenang.ipglobal.tv/

Monday, July 21, 2008

PAS-Umno talks not a cause for concern, says CM - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jul 21, 2008 By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG and CHRISTINA CHIN

The talks between PAS and Umno are no cause for concern to Pakatan Rakyat, said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

"If Pakatan Rakyat can be disturbed because of one meeting, then it is completely not a pakatan (coalition)," he said Monday, responding to the high-level meetings between the two parties.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Sunday that he had met with "very high level" PAS leaders three times and their talks had advanced to another stage. In an immediate response, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang confirmed that the meetings took place and said that the discussions had centred on Islam and Malay issues.

Lim, who is DAP secretary-general, said it was normal and within Abdullah's rights to meet anyone.

"That is not unusual. It is what they are discussing that is more important. I've also met the PM before, but we met to discuss issues relating to the rights of the people of Penang.

"I'm sure that he's met with others. Our emphasis is that when we talk about issues, it should be issues that contribute towards Malaysian unity," he told a press conference after the opening ceremony of the 12th state assembly.

On the possibility of PAS jumping ship and Pakatan Rakyat breaking up, Lim said:

"We have no indication of that for now; let us cross that bridge when we come to it."

Asked if he would be meeting with PAS leaders to check with them what transpired at the meetings, Lim said there was no necessity and it was not going to affect the Penang government anyway.

On the position of the state's Opposition leader, Penaga assemblyman Datuk Azhar Ibrahim of Umno, Lim said the state intended to move the necessary amendments to accord him an allowance and other privileges.

"We intend to give him an allowance just like in Parliament and recognise his position as Opposition leader, which had never been recognised in the past. The state legal advisor has said that the necessary amendments would only be ready at the next state assembly session," he said.

Lim also said the state was pursuing an earlier proposal for loans from the federal government for conservation efforts, and hoped the federal government was willing to give soft loans amounting to RM200mil for such purposes in light of the inscription of George Town as a historical city under Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.

A heart to serve people - The Star

Jul 21, 2008 By DERRICK VINESH

MONETARY reward is not the main reason for one to serve the community – this is what the state’s newly-appointed Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) chairmen say.

The 148 leaders, who were appointed for the 2008/09 term, have accepted their monthly allowances of only RM200, instead of RM600 as received by their predecessors.

Pepper Estate JKKK chairman Geoffrey Gan, 55, said under the previous state administration, JKKK chairmen used to receive an allowance of RM450 from the Federal Government and RM150 from the state government.

“We understand the financial situation of the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government and do not expect high allowances from them.

Lim sharing a light moment with Sungai Nibong JKKK chairman Ideris Othman (in white) and Kampung Seronok JKKK chairman Sharifah Nooryati Syed Ameruddin after presenting them the appointment letters.

“Our ultimate aim is to help people and not to seek fat allowances,” he said after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had presented letters of appointment to the JKKK leaders at the Seberang Prai Municipal Council headquarters in Bukit Mertajam yesterday.

Gan, however, said he hoped the private sector and the public would help support JKKKs through cash and kind when they organised various community activities.

Bagan Ajam JKKK chairman Alias Wan Chek, 47, a businessman, said the JKKK post was a part-time job for him.

“I view this appointment as an honour to serve the people. I will do my best to help curb crime and immoral activities in my area,” he said.

Pantai Molek JKKK chairman Cheah Sze Phatt, 57, a businessman, said he hoped the state government would gradually increase the allowance.

“But we are very happy to serve the people,” he said.

Later, during a press conference, Lim said he was glad these leaders have placed sincerity to serve the people above their own interest.

Lim also announced that the monthly allowance for JKKK secretaries would be RM150, while RM10 would be given to every committee member who attended a meeting.

The state, he added, would also allocate RM1,000 to all JKKKs as annual administration costs.

Lim said the appointment of the Juru JKKK chairman had been temporarily deferred following a request from his deputy Dr P. Ramasamy.

Tree felled for safety reason - The Star

Jul 21, 2008 By PRISCILLA DIELENBERG

A HUGE healthy rainforest tree in Jalan Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah, believed to be more than 50 years old, was chopped down over the weekend because it was obstructing the view of motorists.

Penang municipal councillor Lim Cheng Hoe said this has resulted in several accidents along the busy stretch.

He said the council approved the residents’ request for the tree to be chopped down by the Public Works Department.

Lim said in the latest accident about two weeks ago, a motorcyclist was seriously injured after a car exiting from a small lane at the junction knocked him down.

The rainforest tree beside Jalan Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah has to give way due to several accidents along the busy stretch.

“The car driver did not see the motorcyclist as the tree had blocked his view,” he said.

Lim added the council did not simply allow the tree to be chopped down on flimsy grounds.

“No doubt, the tree was healthy, but we have to consider the lives of people,” he said.

“There have been many accidents at the junction in the past,” said Lim, adding that the small lane led to a village and a parking lot of a nearby coffee shop.

Lim was commenting on public complaints to The Star on the felling of the tree. A reader complained that workers began axing the tree on Friday and the job took three days.

He also claimed it was the third three to be chopped down in two years in the area.

Another caller was concerned that the felling was illegal as it was being done over the weekend.

Lim dispelled the claims, saying no other tree in the area had been felled in recent years.

“I live in the area and there has not been any felling of trees there, only the occasional trimming of one or two trees with large branches,” he said.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, who has been vocal about a greener Penang, said it was unfortunate that the tree had to be felled but human safety was of prime importance.

“We still want more trees to be planted all over the island,” said Teh, who had in March announced his target of having a million trees planted in the state within five years.