PENANG (April 22, 2008): By Opalyn Mok, Husna Yusop and Bernard Cheah
Gerakan wants its former deputy secretary-general Datuk Lee Kah Choon to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for accepting the Pakatan Rakyat state government's offer of directorship in Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and InvestPenang.
Party acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said in a statement today Lee's actions contravened the principle and spirit of the party's general directive that members should relinquish all appointments as municipal and district councillors and village security and development committee members in all states ruled by Pakatan Rakyat after the general election.
He said the directive was based on the premise that Gerakan now has to play the role of an effective opposition in Penang.
"We can't do this objectively if our own members hold key positions in the state and local administration," he said.
Koh also questioned the political motive of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in appointing Lee who has no direct experience in promoting investment in the industrial sector. "Lee has experience only as a lawyer and a Health Ministry parliamentary secretary which is unrelated to the manufacturing industry."
He compared Lee's inexperience to that of the former InvestPenang executive committee chairman Datuk Kalsom Abdul Rahman, who was then the chairman of
Small Medium Industry Development Corporation of Malaysia and a former deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
He said the deputy chairman on the executive committee Datuk Seri Kelvin Kiew is a well-accomplished industrialist with extensive international connections.
"As the industrial sector is Penang's most important economic sector, it is not proper for Lim to play politics this way which may jeopardise the state's efforts and ability to attract investment to Penang," Koh said.
Earlier, in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said it was up to Gerakan to decide whether to act against Lee or not.
He said he felt Lee should not have accepted the post as it is not a normal practice for Barisan Nasional (BN) to work with the opposition.
"But perhaps this is something new. It is up to the parties concerned (to decide). But I am not able to confirm of what has happened," he told reporters after delivering his speech at the Asia Europe Culture Ministers Meeting.
He has also been appointed as investPenang executive committee chairman as announced by Lim who also said the state executive council had consented to the appointment during their meeting last Wednesday (April 16).
Asked whether this is a new era where BN is willing to cooperate with the opposition, Abdullah said: "We can always create a new era but as far as I am concerned, this is a matter for the parties concerned to decide. But, as far as BN is concerned, depend on people to do whatever they want. So, if there is no clash in policies perhaps, it opens the way to cooperate but as I said, the parties will have to decide."
When contacted, Lee reserved comments, saying he had yet to receive the letter.
Lee had resigned as party deputy secretary-general last month to accept responsibility for the party's poor showing at the polls, losing control of Penang in the process. He remains an ordinary member.
At an earlier function, Lee reiterated that accepting the PDC and InvestPenang posts had nothing do with politics but was about contributing towards the state economy.
"My membership in Gerakan and my appointment as a director are two different things and should not be mixed together at all."
The former Jelutong MP, who was one of three Gerakan men said to be in line for the Chief Minister's post, said it was not an issue when previously there were employees in InvestPenang who were Pakatan Rakyat members when the BN ruled the state.
"Why is it an issue now? Why should I quit as a Gerakan member just because I am providing my services here?"
Lee said this whole issue of his appointment should be seen from a civil servant perspective. "Civil servants serve the government of the day."
"If I apply to other companies to work, I am sure they won't ask me which party I am a member of, so how could this be any different?"
On Gerakan adviser Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik's statement that he pitied him (Lee) for he had a difficult job ahead of him, Lee said: "Lim can say whatever he wants. I am ready to take all the blows from everywhere as politics is history for me."