April 29, 2008 By CHRISTINA CHIN
THE upcoming state assembly is expected to be a fiery affair with 11 Opposition members vowing to represent the voices of all Penangites.
On Friday, 40 of the state’s assemblymen will be sworn in at the state assembly building in Light Street. The state assembly proper is expected to convene in June or early July.
Sungai Puyu incumbent Phee Boon Poh’s prediction during last year’s state assembly sitting has come true – the former state government has now become the state’s Opposition with Pakatan Rakyat winning 29 of the 40 state seats.
An amused Phee recalls how the tables have turned.
“On the last day of the state assembly in November, I tried to get the Barisan ADUNs to support my motions to debate the Sungai Nyior toll and the erection of Chinese language signage boards at historical sites.
“My compatriot from PAS – Permatang Pasir assemblyman Mohd Hamdan Abd Rahman was absent from the state assembly as his relative passed away.
“I was the sole Opposition representative and not only did no one want to support my motions for a debate, I was laughed at,” he said.
Phee recalled how he looked directly at then Penaga assemblyman Datuk Azahar Ibrahim (now the state’s Opposition leader) and said: “You can laugh but God willing, at the next state assembly, I will be sitting here as a state executive councillor and you will be here as an Opposition member.”
“The roles are reversed but I hope the Barisan representatives will serve the people as an effective Opposition,” he said.
Among the fresh faces spotted at the 40-minute rehearsal yesterday was Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin.
Sporting a stripy black suite with a bright blue tie, first timer Sim said he was “honoured” to be part of the state assembly.
“I have done my homework and I am ready to raise issues that concern all Penangites.
“Because the Opposition members are experienced, we must not be caught unprepared.
“No doubt being an assemblyman is a steep learning curve and I want to assure the public that my colleagues and I will not be any less critical of the administration now that Pakatan Rakyat is the state government,” he said.
Sim was among several assemblymen who attended the rehearsal in full formal attire.
“I bought this suit just before the March 8 polls because I needed to have my picture taken for some general election materials,” he laughed.
According to a spokesman at the state secretariat office in Komtar, this was the first time a rehearsal for the state assembly swearing in ceremony was conducted.
“The rehearsal was initiated by us because there are many first-timers this time around.
“Those who are familiar with the protocol were not invited.
“Although there are two new assemblymen among the 11 Opposition members, we did not invite them because the Opposition members will only be sworn in after the state government representatives are sworn in.
“They can easily follow the protocol by observing the other ADUNs on that day,” he said, adding that during the rehearsal, assemblymen Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin (Penanti), Abdul Malik Kassim (Batu Maung) and Lim Hock Seng (Bagan Jermal) rehearsed among the first to be sworn in.
Mohammad Fairus is also state Deputy Chief Minister (I).
“The other 20-odd assemblymen present were basically there to observe and to get an idea of what to expect,” he said, adding that Air Puteh assemblyman Lim Guan Eng, Prai assemblyman Dr P. Ramasamy and Padang Kota assemblyman Chow Kon Yeow attended an earlier rehearsal on Saturday.
“They are all MPs so they couldn’t make it today. They are in Kuala Lumpur for the MP swearing in ceremony,” he said.
Asked whether he expected any surprises during the state assembly swearing in ceremony, Bukit Tambun Law Choo Kiang said he had “a feeling” the Opposition would nominate their own Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
“It is their democratic right and I foresee that they will exercise that right,” he said.
Last month, Lim announced that the coalition would propose to the state legislative assembly to appoint Abdul Halim Hussain and Tan Hock Leong from PKR as state assembly Speaker and deputy Speaker.
When met at the rehearsal, Abdul Halim and Tan said they were both prepared to shoulder the responsibility if their nominations were accepted.
“We have read through the procedures and relevant regulations so there is nothing to be nervous about. Rest assured, we will be fair and transparent in conducting the proceedings,” Tan said.
Abdul Halim said he would be a “proactive speaker” if accepted.
“I have many plans including inviting university students and Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) leaders to come and observe the proceedings,” he said, adding that there would be no debates or questions raised.
“There will only be a swearing in ceremony,” he said, adding that the chief minister would usually be the one who nominates the Speaker.
“The deputy chief minister I will second the nomination and if there are no other names proposed, we will be sworn in.
“However, if the Opposition proposes other candidates, a secret vote will be held. The new Speaker will then take his oath and start with the task of chairing the state assembly.
“The other state assemblymen will then be sworn in before the deputy Speaker is nominated and sworn in,” he explained.
During the recently concluded election, the DAP won 19 seats, PKR nine and PAS one.
All Opposition members are from UMNO.