Monday, June 30, 2008

'No need to consult Penang govt on mega projects' - NST

BUTTERWORTH: Jun 30, 2008 By : S. Arulldas

There was no need to consult the state government when the decision was made to defer the RM2 billion monorail and RM1.5 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) projects in Penang.
"What is there to consult? These are federal projects," said Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

He was commenting on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's statement that the state was not consulted on the matter.

Nor Mohamed said it was not for him to answer whether the government would review its decision.

He said the Federal Government had decided to defer the mega projects to concentrate on relieving the people's burden after the recent increase in fuel price and other goods.
He said both the projects were of no priority in the current economic situation.

"The government is more focused on relieving people's financial burden right now."

Nor Mohamed was speaking after attending Sri Murugan Centre's Renaissance in Education programme at the Dewan Besar in Tasik Gelugor here yesterday.

Also present were Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department S.K. Devamany, Sri Murugan Centre director Datuk Dr M. Thambirajah and organiser and the co-director of the centre, L. Krishnan.

Nor Mohamed said the government had also decided to improve the state's public transport system by increasing the existing fleet of 150 RapidPenang buses to 250.

"If it is not found to be sufficient, then we will add 100 more buses."

He said the government had set aside RM100 million under the Amanah Ikthiar Malaysia to help the urban poor "as statistics revealed that majority of the Indians would benefit from the fund".

During the event, Devamany's mother, Nagarathinambal Krishnansamy, was honoured "Mother of the Year" for raising five children as a single parent for the last 10 years.

Penang seeks rest of promised funds - The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Jun 30, 2008

Will Penang get all of the RM40mil it had been allocated for the upgrading of the Penang Hill funicular train service under the Ninth Malaysian Plan?

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he had heard talk that the allocation had been withdrawn and condemned the move, saying that it was “in line with former actions (of the Federal Government)”, referring to the shelved monorail project and Penang Outer Ring Road.

“The Federal Government seems to have washed its hands of the funicular train service. This is not the right way to do things,” Lim told a press conference after launching the Penang Hepatitis Day at Queensbay Mall here.

He said there had been no word on when the funds would be released but was still hoping for the allocation so repair works for the service, which was halted last Wednesday, can go on.

He said the funds had been promised under the Ninth Malaysian Plan to change the tracks and cables. It was reported in May that the state government had received an undisclosed “small portion” of the allocation.

He added that the state government would try to coordinate things with the Federal Government.

The train service was halted after defects were found on the cable between the middle and upper stations.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Small investments in cutting-edge projects - The Star

Jun 23, 2008

THE PENANG government is prepared to support cutting-edge projects by making small invest-ments in them.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the projects would include those involving biotechnology and advanced medical enhancements.

“The investments will not be a lot because of our financial constraint. Our aim is to give the projects a form of backing,” he said after opening the SME Forum 2008 at Penang Skills Development Centre yesterday.

On incentive packages for investors, he said the state would have to work with the Federal Government on the matter.

“We will also try to marry or match funding resources with those who need venture capital,” he said.

Lim said the first forum held by InvestPenang under the present state government was for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because they formed the backbone of the state’s economy.

In his speech earlier, he said: “We understand your (SMEs’) language. You’d be surprised to see how much the state government understand your needs. Your needs are to increase revenue, reduce cost and improve productivity. We want to help you achieve all three.”

He said he believed the business of the government was not to do business but to help enterprises drive the state’s economy and make Penang the SME capital of Malaysia.

He also hoped the contributions by SMEs to the state’s Gross Regional Product would be increased from the current 20% to 30% soon.

More skills training centres needed - The Star

Jun 23, 2008

THE Government needs to build more skills training centres to provide training for those who failed in public examinations, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said.

He said these youths could do well in life if given the chance to get skills training.

He said he was extremely concerned, especially over those who failed in the PMR and SPM examinations.

He said this might result in them entering the job market at a young age.

“Society calls them failure because they did not pass their exams. But, success should not be measured by academic excellence alone,” Dr Ramasamy said when closing the Academic Forces’ awards presentation for high achievers at the Penang state public library in Butterworth yesterday.

Ramasamy, who is also state Economic Planning, Education and Human Resources Committee chairman, said if society did not lend them a hand, they might get involved in social ills.

He said necessary guidance and opportunities should be made available for the youths to make infor-med decisions.

He praised Academic Forces, a group of undergraduates, for their commitment in helping to nurture Indian youths to be successful in life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Guan Eng: Equal treatment for all major religions - The Star


Penang will allocate state funds fairly to all major religions to ensure no religion is discriminated against or marginalised, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said.

He said the state government would treat all religions equally.

“We have also formed an inter-religious council called Majlis Silaturahim to promote goodwill and understanding among all religions,” he told newsmen after opening the National Maha Sanghika Dana 2008 at Penang International Sports Arena here on Sunday.

The event is organised annually by the Malaysian Buddhist Youth Foundation to provide a platform for devotees to do good deeds.

"All religions are equal according to Buddhist teaching,” he said. He also reiterated that Penang would not become an Islamic state. “Islam is the official religion of the country, but the freedom to worship other religions is enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

“Nobody can take away this freedom and this right must be enjoyed by all of us forever,” he added.

Lim noted that Buddhism, with 370 million followers, was the fourth largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

Earlier at another function, he said the state government was promoting the “Faith, Hope and Love” concept to restore lost trust, to give hope to future generations and to create a loving environment.

“We want to restore the lost trust among the people. Government that comes from the people should serve the people.

“We also want to give hope to the young generation that there is a future in Penang where there will be equal opportunity for all to benefit from the growing economy,” he said.

Lim also said there was a lack of “love” in the state.

“People who do not have the loving spirit will be selfish and uncivilised,” he said.

The state was keen on promoting the loving culture to create a cohesive and harmonious society, he said after flagging off a convoy of luxury cars participating in an overland trip to Bangkok.

The event was organised by the Lions Club of Bayan Baru.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Price hike: 'What measures to help the people?' - Malaysiakini

Pakatan Rakyat coalition partners DAP and PKR appear to have different perspectives regarding the sharp increase in fuel prices announced by the BN government on June 4.

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has gone on record as promising to reduce oil prices if he becomes prime minister. However, DAP seems to be of the opinion that the price rise is unavoidable.

Penang chief minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng today said the party would accept the rise in oil prices provided the government furnishes a mechanism to cushion its impact on the people.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Foreign colleges interested in setting up base in Penang - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (june 19, 2008): By Himanshu Bhatt

Several foreign educational institutions have expressed interest in opening schools and colleges here.

Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P Ramasamy told reporters today institutions from India, South Korea and Europe have made site visits to assess the possibility of setting up campuses here.

Representatives from an international school from India had come with officials from the Indian High Commission yesterday.The school, which has a centre in Kuala Lumpur, is willing to look at Penang as a possible site due to the large number of expatriates and Indians here.

Ramasamy told reporters this when announcing the Penang Education, Training and Career Expo 2008 to be held in Penang on Dec 20 and 21.

Also present was Social Economic and Research Institute (SERI) chairman Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, who is the event’s organising chairman.

Ramasamy added that an agricultural university in the Netherlands involved in food production had also expressed interest to open a campus in Penang, while a school in South Korea is considering setting up a centre here.

"I have linked them up with state agencies that can help them in this matter," he said.

Currently, there are five international schools in Penang.

Ramasamy said while the course approval would be given by the Education Ministry, the state government would look into availability of land and buildings for the institutions.

"We need to give them necessary confidence and information so they can make a choice," he said.

Ramasamy also said many private colleges in Penang offered scholarships, which the public were not aware of.

He said students should be exposed to financial aid schemes to make private education more available, especially for those who excel.

"Why should private colleges be the domain of the rich and well-to-do? We have to bridge the gap," he added.

Guan Eng makes surprise 'raid' on land office - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (June 19, 2008): By Bernard Cheah

The staff of the state Land and Mines Department here were caught unawares when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng made a surprise visit just before lunch hour today.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (right) making a suprise visit to the Land and Mines Department office in Komtar.

Lim made his surprise move after receiving complaints from the public that they had been given wrong forms for the state’s land renewal policy.

A few officers who were standing outside were seen rushing in when they spotted the throng of photographers and reporters accompanying the chief minister as he stepped into the 50th floor of Komtar.

Lim walked straight to the main counter and was seen seeking clarifications and updates from the staff there.

He was later taken inside to view the online application procedure.

When he emerged later, Lim told reporters he was disappointed that the public had been given incorrect forms. The forms available online were also the wrong ones, he said.

"If there is a flaw, we are prepared to admit it," he said reporters.

"As a state government practising competency, accountability and transparency (CAT), we are responding immediately to rectify the situation," he said.

It is learnt that at least 100 people had picked up the forms.

Lim announced on Monday (June 16) that all industrial and commercial property owners on state land can have their leases converted to the maximum of 99 years. Additionally, all residential landed properties are to be made freehold.

He said the measures were part of the state government's plan to return ownership of land to Penangites, and would have significant impact on the industrial and commercial sectors, especially with their ability to obtain financing.

"I'll make sure that (Penang State Land and Mines Department director) Ariffin (Awang) will check the forms again and the information on the website is corrected and made more user-friendly," he said.

Lim, who is also State Land Affairs and Land Development Committee chairman, said he was dissatisfied with the officers' performance as they had undergone briefing sessions on the matter.

The amended 12A and Schedule 1 forms can be obtained from any of the five land offices or downloaded from from Monday (June 23).

Lim said those who had picked up the wrong forms will be contacted to collect the amended forms.

In order to apply for land conversion or extension, the public is required to submit two completed copies of the Schedule 1 form, four copies of 12A form, copies of the property’s location plan, land grant and Memorandum of Articles of Association.

The location plans at RM20 are available at the land owners’ respective District and Land Offices. A payment of RM200 is required for the application.

For details, the public can call 04-2615459.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Govt rewarded with 80 out of 100 marks for its practices - The Star

Jun 18, 2008 By NG SU-ANN

FEDERATION of Malaysian Manufacturers (northern branch) chairman Datuk O. K. Lee said generally, the new Penang Government was proactive and obviously trying to do its best.

“As far as its policies are concerned, they are quite sound and acceptable in line with a democratic practice. The CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) principle is good.

Lee gave the government 80 marks out of 100 for its practices and 70 to 75 marks for performance.

He said the government should also be commended for appointing non-political people in the municipal councils, adding that this would lead to “a better check and balance in the system.”

He said the federation was the first group the state initiated a dialogue with after the general election.

“The new government wanted to assure us that its policies would be business-friendly.

“And when the flash floods hit Seberang Prai in May, it was there instantly to solve the problem. That's fast and efficient,” he said.

Lee said it was heartening to see that the new government chose the best people for the job regardless of their background.

Quoting former Chinese reformer Deng Xiaoping, he said: “Black cat, white cat; The one which catches the rat is the good cat.”

Malaysian Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Penang branch) president N. Gobalakrish-nan said: “Now that the government has settled down after taking over the state, it should come out with a blueprint to help the Indian community as promised during the elections.

“I know it's not easy but we hope it can be done within the next 50 days. The chamber is willing to work with the government to achieve this.”

He said the state could take the lead in developing the blueprint for other states to follow.

Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia adviser Datuk Haji Faudzi Naim Hj Noh said: “It is not really working yet. There’s still a lot of things to be done.”

He urged the new government to strengthen and empower the people.

He agreed that the CAT principle was a good one, adding that anti-corruption efforts should be the core struggle of every government.

Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping said it was clear that the new state government was doing its best despite not having the experience in managing a state.

“I hope it will continue to fulfil what it promised the people during the elections,” he added.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Guan Eng to Petronas: We want full disclosure - The Sun

PETALING JAYA (June 17, 2008): by Rathi Ramanathan and Bernard Cheah

Opposition politicians today charged that Petronas' 84-page 2007 annual report available on its official website does not reveal adequate details and the public deserved full diclosure.

Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Eng Guan, a trained accountant, said: "The report only gives a snapshot view and detailed expenditure is not made transparent. We want to know whether unecessary expenditure like lavish banquets and private jets had been spent.

"DAP has been pressing for detailed accounts since 1986. The annual report was only made available on the Petronas website three years ago."

Petronas chief executive officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican was reported today as saying Petronas has been publishing its annual report for the past 18 years and is easily available. This was in response to queries by various quarters both Opposition and Barisan Nasional that the national petroleum corporation's accounts be made public.

Parti Keadilan Raykat (PKR) treasurer William Leong, who is also Selayang MP, also expressed similar concerns. "We know that a sizeable amount is given to the government but we would like to know how that money has been spent. Even if the money has gone to certain activies like Formula One, we would like the detailed breakdown. Financial details like rescuing Bank Bumiputra have never been disclosed."

Umno Youth vice-chief and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin was also reported over the weekend calling for Petronas' accounts to be made public. He reportedly said he would raise the issue in Parliament because the public wanted to know why the national oil corporation was unable to absorb the rising cost of fuel despite the profits.

Under the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Petronas is obligated to pay the government taxes, dividends, royalties and duties Over the last 33 years some RM336 billion was channelled back to the government. Hassan was reported saying that for financial year 2007, RM52.3billion or 66.2% of the total profit was paid to the Government as tax, dividends, royalties and export duties. Hassan, has also been reported saying that that it was the governments responsibility to respond to how that money is allocated.

In GEORGE TOWN, Lim lashed out at Petronas directors, calling on them to stop living and behaving “like kings”.

"Theublic needed to know how many private jets and expensive cars the company’s directors and top management had bought and used. hile everyone else is suffering during the current financial difficulty, they are enjoying themselves,” he added. "It's very un-Malaysian."

He said the directors should instead let the national oil company share its profits with the public during this trying period in the nation’s history.

"Why is money not channelled to the masses?” he said. “As long as Petronas does not share its profit, it is working against national interest."

Lim spoke to reporters after witnessing the signing ceremony between Axon and SAP on SAP Education Partnership here.

"Petronas must realise that there is mounting public anger against it. We did not hear in the past of people boycotting Petronas," he said, noting a growing email and SMS campaign asking Malaysians to boycott Petronas stations.

Lim said the financial statement in the report on Petronas' website was not exactly public.

"Releasing information in bulk and in general terms does not really throw any light on how the expenses are accounted for," he said.

Lim also queried the RM500 million spent by Petronas to maintain the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra of which more than 90% are foreign musicians.

"Who authorised you to spend the money? Are you accountable to yourself or to the prime minister?" he asked.

Giving back to society - The Star

Jun 17, 2008

A SEBERANG Prai municipal councillor used his maiden councillor's allowance of RM600 to buy ceiling fans for a school and groceries for five poor families in his hometown in Nibong Tebal.

Teoh Seang Hooi, 48, a tuition teacher, said he merely wanted to give back to society.

Since his appointment as councillor in May, Teoh said his 10-year-old son Marcus of SK Methodist Nibong Tebal, had been constantly reminding him to help his school.

Teoh (left) handing over the ceiling fans to Idris at the school.

“I have seen the children sweating profusely under the hot zinc roof while waiting for their parents to fetch them after school.

“So, I decided to install two ceiling fans at the cost of RM400 at the school porch,” he said yesterday.

Teoh said he would use the remaining RM200 to buy groceries for the families of five needy rubber tappers in Byram Estate.

Coming from a relatively poor background, Teoh said his parents, who were hawkers, had to work hard to raise nine children.

“My family and I experienced hardship and poverty in the past. So, when we are blessed now, we believe we should bless others, in whatever way that we can,” he said.

The school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) chairman Idris Hasan thanked Teoh for the kind gesture, noting that the 110-year-old school had an enrolment of about 600 pupils.

“We hope our old boys will also come forward and render their services.

“Apart from additional computers and a fresh coat of paint for the school building, we also need about RM50,000 to raise the school field, which often floods during a downpour,” he said.

Council to install 24 CCTVs in district - The Star

Jun 17, 2008 By TAN SIN CHOW

TWENTY-FOUR closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be installed at the south-west district areas and Bayan Lepas free industrial zones (FIZ) as a move to increase surveillance on traffic flow and combat crime.

Penang Municipal Council president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman said the Housing and Local Government Ministry had agreed to fund the project at an estimated cost of RM4mil.

He said the council and police have consulted each other on where to place the cameras.

A CCTV installed at the Penang Road-Jalan Datuk Keramat junction.
Six cameras will be placed at Bayan Lepas FIZ while the rest will be installed at strategic locations in Balik Pulau.

“We submitted our proposal early this year and the ministry gave us the green light two months ago.

“The ministry has yet to decide on the date of installation,” he said over a telephone interview.

In October last year, the council installed 31 CCTVs in George Town and its surrounding areas at a cost of RM5.8mil.

Monitoring is done round-the-clock in Komtar, the George Town district police headquarters and the state police contingent head-quarters.

The cameras were installed at Upper Penang Road (UPR), Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, Lebuh Campbell, Jalan Magazine, Lebuh Carnarvon, Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, Gurney Drive, Jalan Air Itam and Persiaran Midlands.

A public announcement system is installed next to each camera to alert the people during an emergency.

Zainal Rahim said that since the installation, the high-definition cameras, which could zoom in at a distance of up to 100m, have proven to be an effective tool in monitoring traffic flow.

“When we noticed there are double or triple line parking at a particular location, enforcement officers will move in to issue summonses to vehicles causing traffic obstruction.

A CCTV installed at the Penang Road/Jalan Datuk Keramat junction.

“By doing so, the traffic flow can be smoothen immediately,” he said.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Azam Abd Hamid said with the aid of the electronic surveillance, policemen could move in in the event of a crime.

He said on several occasions, patrol cars were deployed to the scene when cars were found to have stopped for a certain period of time in front of jewellery shops and banks.

“Our patrol cars will move in immediately should we come across such cars with drivers or passengers behaving suspiciously.

“We do not want to take the chances as who knows, they might be there to check out the location before deciding to strike,” he said.

He added that the police would be able to play back the footage in the event a crime was reported in a CCTV zone.

‘You can report corruption to my office’ - The Star


Penangites can report any corruption direct to their chief minister's office in Komtar.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said apart from the police and the Anti-Corruption Agency, the public could report directly to his office if any government officials or leaders approached them for bribes.

“Action will be taken. We want the government to operate efficiently based on rules and laws, not based on bribes,” he said, adding that those who reported such cases must however provide proof to back their claims.

He also called for public cooperation to ensure the success of the state’s competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) policy and prove that corruption was not part of Malaysian culture.

“We ask the people to help us fight corruption - do not give bribes to any government officials or leaders. If they approach you, report to us, the ACA or police,” he said during a media session held in conjunction with his 100th day in office.

He also said he would remain "plain Mr Lim" and not accept any Datukship in conjunction with the Penang Governor’s birthday awards ceremony next month.

“I will not be accepting nor awarding myself titles,” he stressed.

On making Penang a safe place for locals and investors, Lim said the crime rate in the first five months had dropped by 2% compared with the corresponding period last year.

He was happy to note that Penang had dropped to 10th spot in the country in terms of crime but ranked first in solving crime cases, with a 52% success rate.

On the state’s financial standing, he claimed it was better than before and the state government should be able to reduce its RM35mil deficit.

“We can manage on our own but without the federal funding promised us, it will make things tougher. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We will find a way.”

Guan Eng takes your questions - The Star

Jun 17, 2008

WHEN the opposition swept into power in Penang in the March 8 general election, no one was more surprised than DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng who led the election campaign.

Three days later, Lim, a qualified accountant from Malacca, was sworn in as Penang’s fourth Chief Minister.

The new chief executive has introduced some populist measures and claims to be the first to implement the CAT (competency, accountability, transparency) policy in the country.

In an interview in conjunction with his 100 days in office, Lim described his CAT government as a new political and social experiment to prove that a clean government is possible and at the same time, allow people to share in the prosperity.

He also answers questions by The Star readers on what he has achieved to date and his plans to make Penang regain its lustre and lead again.
What are your administration’s achievements since coming into power? (Kenneth Khoo, Penang

Among the things we have done are cancelling all summonses issued before March 8, implementing an open tender system for government contracts and introducing a new land reform policy that allows the people to take back ownership of the land.

We have cut down the state’s expenses by cancelling the order of new cars valued at over RM600,000 and also instructed government departments and officers to cut cost when travelling.

For example, they should fly economy instead of business class and take a deluxe room instead of a suite which they are entitled to. When holding government functions, we do it in government complexes and have cooked food that is catered so that small time businesses can earn some money.

We also distribute welfare aid to fire and flood victims within 24 hours. In the past it was besok lusa (tomorrow or the day after).

In view of rising costs, we want to give every poor family a small gesture of RM100 each.

We do all this belt-tightening so that we can channel back the savings to the rakyat.

I feel that there is not enough of “caring” so we want to take the first step. The people should have a renewal of faith in the government that represents them and there should be hope for the future and love for each other as Malaysians.

Our future is here – good or bad. We have faced lots of challenges, especially when trying to push for the open tender. When we made efforts to attract foreign investors, we were also challenged.

One company wanted to invest billions and billions of ringgit here but because of some irresponsible opposition party’s statement about the Second Bridge being cancelled, they decided against it. We are still trying to convince them but it is not easy.

The fuel price increase is not our doing but we have to bear it. We have to bear all these but we will be strong.

Finally, we are the first CAT government in Malaysia to adopt the principles of competency, accountability and transparency.

We can have good governance in Penang because we have good people. A government is as good as its people. We want to allow them to reclaim ownership in this government – we want their voices to be heard and for them to participate in making decisions which are made for their benefit and not for any private gain.

To encourage excellence, we recognised the top SPM and STPM top students. This is to show our emphasis to retain brain power. We hope those outside of Penang will come back because there is opportunity here.

We have many, many ideas in the areas of medical tourism, soft skills and software.

It is really a heartache to see Penang lagging a century behind Singapore where at one time we were ahead. Will we be able to lead again? (Tan the Penangite

No doubt Penang has lagged behind. How to reverse that is to make Penang dynamic again and we will focus on our core competencies.

In terms of the manufacturing sector, that means leveraging on brainpower, superior skills, superior supply and superior chain network.

Another area is tourism. There are eight key thrusts we want to focus on. For heritage tourism, we want to leverage on the fact that Penang is the most prominent heritage city in Malaysia and hopefully, with the Unesco listing, we can attract more interest. That’s number one.

Number two is educational tourism. We believe Penang has great potential with our established academic history as well as brainpower to attract students from foreign countries to study in Penang.

Number three is medical tourism. We believe that the natural surroundings coupled with the best doctors and nurses in Malaysia will provide the best synergies to make Penang the premier medical destination for those who seek treatment.

Fourthly, we want to make Penang a convention city – you need an icon to push Penang.

Fifth is to make the state a culinary centre. We want Penang’s food to attract tourists.

Sixth is eco tourism. Go up to Penang Hill and you will realise why Penang is called the Pearl of the Orient – it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth so let’s regain its lustre.

Seventh is making Penang the regional headquarters for MNCs – we want them to relocate here and bring along their friends and families.

Finally, we want Penang to be a cultural, film and arts centre. We have a long tradition and history of arts and artists who reside in Penang. Here we have the advantage of international city living but at the same time, the green comforts away from the rat race.

This effort to promote tourism is different from the previous administration which did not have focus, sustainable effort or icons. What are the icons they have built for Penang?

To promote Penang, we should have a list of “Top 10” products to recommend to tourist – we must have products from the native communities – a few items from the Chinese, India and Malay community each.

For example – nutmeg, coffee, pottery and traditional biscuits – these can help generate income and promote Penang.

I went on a business networking trip recently and met all the big boys in Hong Kong. They have all been here 20 years ago but they have not been coming back since. Why?

Because there is nothing here for them. They prefer to go to Bali because somehow, they feel they can get what they want there – to bring them back is not easy but we must focus. We can be as safe as Bali, we have good food and hospitable people who speak English.

Do you have a structural development plan for Penang? (Kong Leong Teng

As far as tourism is concerned, we have a master plan which we are proceeding full steam ahead. We want to put it on paper but we are worried that there won’t be any land left then. Land is going like hot cakes.

Your new land policy to convert leasehold to freehold land may be popular among the people but won’t it hamper future development by the state government. (Cheah, Kuala Lumpur

It’s only residential, not commercial and not industrial. What we are doing is returning land to the people. That is why we do not allow Penang state leaders to apply.

What do you hope to achieve with CAT (competency, accountability, transparency) policy? (Mohd. Anwar, Penang

We believe we should have a new political paradigm - a new course where we choose the best and the brightest.

But when we did that, we were criticised heavily because they say that you should have greater loyalty to your party - you cannot serve the government, you cannot have both feet in two different boats but what I say is which is a higher loyalty? Loyalty to the country and to the people or loyalty to your own political party?

We are not asking you to leave or abandon your political party but to serve the people and if that can be done in the west - for example America - whether you are Republican or Democrat, if you are selected to serve, you still serve - that is the norm internationally but in Malaysia it is seen as abnormal. We regret that our efforts to improve excellence, to choose people based on their ability and honesty has been criticised by those who oppose but we will continue to establish our CAT government in line with principles of democracy and transparency to have a clean government.

This is something new - never done before in Malaysia because corruption is seen as a part of life. We want to show that corruption is not our culture and we can have a clean government that can bring prosperity which we can then share with the people.

I do not know whether we will succeed but I am willing to fail trying than failing to try.

Finally, we believe in the people. We believe that the election results show that the people want to reclaim their ownership in the government. And this government belongs to them. We must let them decide and decide and work for their own benefit - not our own benefit.

That’s why we say no leaders of administration can apply for state land because state land belongs to the rakyat.

But with regards to the land scam, we cannot give all juicy details now because of legal issues but you can see how frightened the previous administration is – they refuse to even see me and talk about it – neither (former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh) Tsu Koon or (his deputy Datuk Seri Abdul) Rashid.

Your exco members are required to declare their assets but this has yet to be done. (Cheng Heng Tan

We wanted to but the Prime Minister’s department communicated to my state secretary that they wanted uniformity. And since we want to maintain good federal relations, we are waiting for them to send us the new forms because we also want to declare openly.

If they do not give us the forms, we have to do this on our own but we do not want to use this issue to score political points.

How does the state plan to lessen the burden of the people in light of the price increases? (Clement Chiang

Actually this is the federal government’s responsibility. They should be cleaning up the mess – after all they control Petronas. With the fuel increase, they have windfall profits which should be distributed among low and middle income owners.

Having said that, while we detest the unwillingness to share Petronas profits, we also rap Petronas for willing to indulge in extravagant expenses like buying private jets and sponsoring the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (which is only Malaysian in name) and throwing extravagant functions which are a waste of money.

They spent RM500mil in 10 years on an orchestra which is 90% made up of foreigners. What is the point of the private jets and helicopter? If it is to conduct oil explorations, it is alright but this is for the comfort of their executives. Why can’t they fly with MAS and let the national carrier earn some profits instead of wasting more than RM100mil on the jet?

Don’t spend money indiscriminately.

What we are asking is that each family be given RM6,000 a year for households earning less than RM6,000 a month. Share – let all of us have a stake in the economy because natural resources belong to the people of Malaysia.

As an MP, these are things I must speak up on yet when I do, I am accused of trying to get publicity.

Back to Penang – we don’t have much money but we want to show that we remember the people and we know what they are going through. That is why I announced that I want to give at least 100,000 families at least RM100 each. This will cost the state government at least RM10mil.

This is the concept of “kongsi bersama rakyat” because if we manage to attract RM1.2bil or more than RM100mil in investments, the rakyat must feel like they are “stakeholders” in the Penang economy.

They should have a right to share but this is a one-off - we don’t encourage giving cash but people are suffering from the price hike.

We are not talking about those who don’t want to find jobs - we are talking about those with jobs and are having difficulty making ends meet - and they tell me they don’t know what to do.

They say if they force their company to increase their pay, the company will close down because the company is also affected by the price hike. They just don’t have enough money to make ends meet and they feel abandoned, they feel like the government doesn’t care. We want to show that the state government does.

How do you plan on tackling the traffic congestion problem in the state? (Nyak Cheek

It is not only the traffic congestion – we have to deal with the three Cs which are congestion, cleanliness and crime.

Our efforts to upgrade public transportation is limited by the constrains to get the necessary permits by the CVLB and LPJP. This takes time so we are trying to work out some kind of format so that we can do our bit to reduce traffic congestions. These are all under federal authority but we are working towards it.

We are looking at reintroducing the “Central Area Transportation” (CAT) busses to make the city more accessible.

More importantly, the federal government has promised us the monorail and we have to work around it.

When it comes to cleanliness – Penang hawkers themselves are among the main problems and I will come down hard on them at the risk of being unpopular because tourists will only come back when the state is clean again.

On the crime rate, it is heartening to note that for the first five months of the year, it dropped by over 2% compared to last year. Penang is number 10 in the country in terms of crime rise and in terms of solving cases, we are number one in the country at 52%.

However, this is not enough. We need to have a “Safe Penang” – we have to do much more. We have the plans and we will announce these in the coming weeks.

What are the things you want to do but have failed to either because of the structure or the fact that it is impossible? (Ahmad Idris, Butterworth

Make the Penang airport and ports more dynamic. It is under the NCER but the government should try and secure direct flights from India, Korea, Dubai and Japan and increase flights from Medan, Jakarta. These are important destinations for Penang.

Does your flying economy class really work in terms of a significant and practical cost-saving measure? (Selvi, Bagan Ajam

It is very tiring and I get a migraine but we must send a message that we must save and the only way to do it is leadership by example. If I can do it in the past, why not now? You are using the people’s money, you should treat it as your own.

How are you planning on improving the state’s financial performance? (Wong, Penang

First is to increase revenue. Two is to cut cost and three is to add value – how do we do that? You must have good governance and get the civil servants to work with you. Get them to work hard, work smart and work clean.

The Perak Menteri Besar and DAP leader got their titles very fast after assuming power. I am curious how you what is your stand on this as you yourself will be recommending titles. (Jeff Cheah, Penang

I will not be accepting or awarding myself titles. As for the Menteri Besar of Perak’s title, it was decided by the Sultan, so that’s in a different context and I think they can explain themselves. I am only responsible for my own state and will not be accepting any titles.

During the election, PAS did not mention anything about an Islamic state because they wanted the non-Muslim votes but now as we approach the 100 days, the PAS Youth chief has started talking about implementing the Syariah laws. You have come out to say that it is never going to happen in Penang. Can you elaborate on that? (Simon

It is a non-issue. PAS Penang has not even raised that issues. Even talk about wanting to ban the Magnum 4D outlets – it is not going to happen. You want me to reduce the number of draws maybe because you may find that there are too many draws but close down? No way! These are just voices on the margin. I think we should ignore them.

Do you think a single term is enough for you to fulfil all your promises in the manifesto? (A. Hishamuddin A. Bakar

Even two terms is not enough.

How to you address the problems of Malays being marginalised in the development of the state? (Mohd Azlan Abdul Majid

One of the first things I did when I came into power was to increase the allowances of religious teachers by RM600 a year.

But let’s not talk of race. We want equal opportunities for all. Once we start talking about race, we fall into Umno’s political trap.

Instead, let’s focus on national unity and globalisation. In the past, we spoke of geo-politics but now we talk about globalisation, competitiveness, human interaction and your competency. These are what we should be talking about because we don’t want to be Jaguh Kampung. We want to stand up together and make Penang an international city.


Earlier, Lim gave an hour-long interview with members of the local media. Here’s what he had to say.

On still having the Opposition mentality and seeking cheap publicity

Is publicity for the federal government not cheap publicity? What does one consider cheap publicity? I think the question is whether the publicity is beneficial to the rakyat. If I were to announce everything I do, I would need 20 press conferences in a day – then you can say I am seeking cheap publicity.

On the state’s financial situation Well, we have some money because we implemented some cost cutting measures. But our financial situation is much better than before but still if we work on the basis of a RM35mil deficit, we should be able to reduce that.

In government accounting there is no provision for contingent liabilities - there is a substantial sum because of excesses and scandals. And these contingent liabilities will make your financial reports and estimates go haywire.

I do not know the extent of the contingent liabilities. As I had mentioned, one land scam can cost you tens and tens of millions of ringgit, I’m not talking about 10 or 20, I’m talking about much more than that. That is where it gives rise to concerns.

We can manage on our own but without the federal government funding promised, it will make things tougher but like I said, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We have to find a way. Life finds a way and Penangites will find a way.

We are sure that the federal government is mature and will respect the decision of the voters. As I have said before, I respect Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as my prime minister just as I hope that he will respect me as his chief minister being anak negeri Pulau Pinang. And I think on that basis, he wants Penang to develop, he doesn’t want to see Penang go backward when he is from Penang just because of the decision of the voters - I don’t think he wants that to happen.

I believe he will respect the wishes of the voters and work together with the state government to ensure development, progress, prosperity shared by all.

On his achievements

We are thrifty in our expenses. Barisan Nasional criticised me for taking economy class (and seeking publicity) but I didn’t ask the reporters to come – I was exposed in a blog and the press picked it up.

It happened that the person who saw me was Ning Baizura – maybe because it was Ning that it attracted attention. This is just my small way of saving. Treat the government’s money like your own money. Be thrifty.

On development

We will assess any development plans and hear views and suggestions but must be sustainable eco-development but at the moment none. I may not agree with your views but I will listen.

Same like PGCC – I won’t say that I reject you outright so that you won’t even bother to submit your plans – no - submit and let us decide, approve and vet it on its merits.

On mega infrastructure projects

Those promised to us like the monorail, we are still awaiting word from the federal government. The Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) is up in the air because the compensation demanded by the company is too high even for the federal government to stomach.

I think PORR for the moment doesn’t seem to be on the table. What we want is a project that will alleviate traffic congestion at a minimal cost to Penang. PORR is contentious because we do not know about the costs and all that.

But the monorail is a project financed by the federal government and I don’t think it is wise to reject a project funded by them. That is why we are willing to wait for them to deliver the project to us. When I say finance, I mean fully borne by them, you understand that right.

On alleged land scams during previous administration

There is an investigation headed by my deputy and he will submit this report to the exco on July 1. The problem is that the ACA has conducted initial investigations and found no evidence.

We want to see if there is evidence or not. We are not happy with the findings. After all, the ACA can make mistakes – even investigations into the judiciary was re-opened after being instructed by AG.

We want to see if we find new evidence to reopen the investigations. Even to get the initial investigations going we found obstacles. We want to say that the previous government cannot just wash its hands of the responsibility.

If the ACA does not reopen the case, we will let everybody know but it will take time because this thing is still being dealt with in court.

His thoughts on being CM

Nothing is ever as easy as we think. Being a mother or a father is the same. That is life. As long as we have the perseverance commitment towards a certain objective, we can prevail – most important thing is the team around us.

On working with the Pakatan States I think we are all too busy in our own states – we just share stories of what we went through but I don’t foresee any difficulties – no time to even sit and talk where are the common areas we can work towards.

But we were the first state to adopt the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) to implement the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) so this is a sign of cooperation. It also reflects our willingness to work with the federal government.

On how his life has changed

It is easier to ask you all (the media) to come to my press conference and nowadays, I don’t have much opportunity to have social drinking because it makes me tired and since I deal a lot with civil servants (many are ladies).

I don’t want to offend them because alcohol breath is not that pleasant – tak manis (not sweet). I have stopped drinking since March 8.

But I am not a heavy drinker so it doesn’t really matter. Nowadays I am dull and boring company. No time for football and no time for golf also. I heard the US Open is very exciting. Sometimes social drinking is nice just to interact with people. My working hours are the same – 24/7.

On his family

Do I miss my wife? She misses me (laughs). I see my children only when I come back. When I get home they are sleeping, when I leave, they are still sleeping.

On reconciling irregularities approved by the previous administration

When you talk about irregularities, Hunza (the developer) has actually sent their submissions to the appeal board but they withdrew their suit and complaint, so no irregularities are proven. They also did not lodge a police report.

I can only review a case when there is evidence of mala fide (bad faith). But how do I prove mala fide when the complainant withdrew his submission on his own accord.

The other thing you have to consider - PGCC- the zoning thing - you make decisions like that where there is no mala fide, there will be huge costs involved. Under the law, to pay expectations of profit is huge - you want to put that at risk?

The legal question when you talk about a land scam, you talk about expectations of profits, you are talking about tens and tens of millions of ringgit one case - which is still in court.

When you make decisions, much as you like to do things, we are also bound by the legal framework we operate under. Let’s say we want to review any project, you can prove any mala fide, good. But if you can’t, I just listen to you, who will bear the cost finally? The people of Penang and I have a responsibility to them.

In the Kampung Buah Pala case where the land is still occupied and the units for the proposed development sold, we have formed a committee to look into the question to see whether we can actually prove mala fide. This issue is also in court.

And this has given rise to worries from those who bought but we want to make sure legal issues are resolved. If it is all hanging in the air, it is no good for anyone. But I think we should be coming to a conclusion in the next few months.

We do not want to approve, sanction or approve, or endorse something where there is fraud, mala fide or corruption. The question is to prove these corrupt practices first.

On reviving George Town

We have certain projects lined up to bring back life to the inner city. This is part of tourism. MICE, eco-tourism, heritage. If we can get projects to come in we can do it – let us unveil slowly.

Look at our land reforms – let the effects show. Let its economic value show. My main focus is to build the necessary infrastructure and allow the private sector to drive the economy subject to certain regulations which ensure social needs are provided for.

On local government elections

We are subject to federal laws, much as we would like to do so. We can only push for the necessarily amendments at federal level. But we have given our commitment to push for it at the latest, the next general election. If we do that on our own it will cost a lot of money.

On the NGOs’ high expectations

These high expectations are something we have to deal with. We also have high expectations but we have to be realistic - we work within the perimeters because when we come in, the civil service also has to adjust to us.

When you talk about reducing red tape, ensuring accountability and transparency, the implementers are the civil servants. We have to guide and lead them and make sure that they also have the same spirit and culture. It is not that they do not want but they are not used to it.

Of course there are some bad hats, bad eggs in the basket - but that is normal in any organisation. The real challenge is to root them out. This is a process of transition, adjustment, accommodation - so that we can go together as one team to forge ahead.

On whether the ongoing feud between the previous and new administration has affected investment

So far it has not been affected. People are still showing interest. What is important is that we show our commitment and sincerity towards delivery. I think we have shown to them that we can deliver. One of the companies that came was actually looking at another site in Malaysia, and were thinking of choosing that site after the elections but finally after meeting us, they decided not only to come to Penang but also to increase their investment by 50%.

That says a lot. If foreign investors are making us their choice destination, local investors should also have the same confidence by investing in Penang.

We are not denying that other people have contributed but closing the deal is not easy. For those who have done business, closing the deal is often the hardest part.

Just like when you talk about getting the lady of your dreams to say yes - it’s not easy at all. So as I said, when you talk about these efforts, it is the combined efforts of all people from Penang.

On living up to the expectations of the people of Penang

That is very subjective. We try to live up to their expectations. We are still sempoi (simple) saja. We still lead a simple lifestyle.

Penang CM Guan Eng celebrates 100th day - The Star


Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was a picture of confidence as he took questions at a special news conference held in conjunction with his 100 days in office.

Except for his policy advisor Liew Chin Tong, there was no entourage -- unlike his first day in office on March 11, when his father and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang sat by his side and Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives and party comrades stood behind him.

If he had seemed rather overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead then, Guan Eng was more at ease this time, fielding questions on his achievements to date and the challenges ahead.

With his hair swept back, Guan Eng’s face seemed even more angular these days and he admitted to having lost 15 kg since he took office.

On how his life has changed in the last 100 days, the DAP secretary-general quipped that it was now easier to get journalists to cover his press conferences.

Guan Eng said he had also given up social drinking but leisure time was now practically non-existent.

“I no longer have time for football or golf. I have not been able to catch the Euro 2008 and I heard the US Golf Open is really exciting this time,” he lamented. “Work is 24-7."

Even family has to take a back seat.

"Do I miss my wife (Betty Chew)? She misses me. I see my children only when I come back. When I get home they are sleeping, when I leave, they are still sleeping.”

The Malacca-born has picked up a smattering of Penang’s sing-song Hokkien but his southern accent is still a give-away.

One thing that has remained unchanged for Guan Eng though is that he still flies AirAsia and MAS economy class, even on long distance travel.

Guan Eng said he believes in a “sempoi” or simple lifestyle.

“If I can fly economy before, I don’t see why I can’t still do it now.”

He would like to take advantage of the "zero-fare" offers but that would require early planning, something he could not do due to a punishing schedule.

To cut costs, he said the new government had scrapped the purchase of new cars, held functions in government complexes instead of expensive hotels, and catered cooked food for guests.

At the media session held at his office on the 29th floor of Komtar, journalists were served a packet of nasi lemak wrapped in newspaper and a piece of nyonya kuih each.

“It’s a sign of hard days,” Guan Eng quipped.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Jun 16, 2008

A group of us numbering 351 people of all races and from different trades and different strata of Penang have decided to join Parti KeADILan Rakyat after careful evaluation of the present political scenario of our country and a deeper understanding of the political objectives of PKR.

Our applications to join PKR as members had been accepted by the party as announced by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto leader of the Party, in Bayan Baru, Penang, last night.

We felt that a two-party system has emerged after March 8th, 2008, and it is healthy for Malaysia not to be dominated by any single party as before, if our aim is to achieve a true parliamentary democracy and a free society.

There are a few important reasons as to why we chose PKR:

Firstly, it is truely multi-racial in its set-up and is steadfastedly and consistently against racism, chauvinism and religious extremism.

Secondly, it practises politics of moderation, accountability and transparency and has proclaimed a war on corruption, croynism and nepotism.

Thirdly, its stance for social juistice made it more relevant to the middle and lower strata of our society which cut across race while it is pro-business and progress.

Fourthly, its fight for democracy, justice and freedom such as the exposure of Lingam’s video clip have contributed to a helthier growth of our judiciary system to become more independent and trusworthy.

Fifthly, it is very important to strenghten PKR and hence Pakatan Rakyat to assist them in their adminitration of the 5 states under their charge as popularly decided by the people on March 8th, and to ensure that Pakatan Rakyat is always a viable and credible alternate government to the Barisan Nasional.

We collectively and strongly beleive that our decision to join PKR is a matter of public interests and we should inform the public of our move. We also hope that more people could join the PKR in the process of causing constant social change which has been stepped up lately through the reform movement.

Some of us had been involved in politics but some are new blood in politics. However, all of us sincerely wish to see a better tomorrow for Malaysia as championed by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his team as comprehensively laid out in the New Malaysian Economic Agenda.
We look forward to the society’s support to carry out our political struggle so as to make Malaysia a better and safer place for everyone to live in.

Awaiting nod for schools - NST

GEORGE TOWN: Jun 16, 2008 By Phuah Ken Lin

The state government will urge the Education Ministry to fast-track the approval of additional national and vernacular schools to overcome the shortage of such schools.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said there had been delays in the construction of schools after the land was handed over by the state government to the ministry.

"To make matters worse, the state government cannot reclaim the land ownership once it is given up. As such, I want the ministry to give its assurance that the construction works will start immediately after the land title is surrendered to the federal authorities," he said after opening the DAP Bayan Baru community centre here on Saturday

Lim said there had not been any new vernacular schools here for a very long time and the state administration wanted the federal government to address this matter.

Asked on the number of schools to be built, Lim said he would leave it to the ministry to decide.

He said the government should increase its allocations for new national and vernacular schools in tandem with population growth

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Know your state rep: No more games as Jagdeep gets to work - NST

GEORGE TOWN: Jun 14, 2008

Jagdeep Singh Deo is happy to be a state representative.

Datuk Keramat state assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo used to swim and play squash and badminton regularly, but since the dissolution of Parliament, he has had to give them up.

The lawyer, who is married with three children, said he also used to go to the gymnasium with his two older children three times a week.

"But now, I do not have the energy to do that as I am working seven days a week."

Jagdeep finds that he has very little time for himself as he battles to juggle his roles as a lawyer, assemblyman and family man.

But even with the increasing workload, Jagdeep is, in his own words, "extremely happy to be a state representative".

In the elections, Jagdeep defeated Gerakan incumbent Ong Thean Lye with a 1,855-majority.

"Now is the time for me to serve the best I can. I hope I will be able to discharge my duties well."

A typical day for Jagdeep begins at the courthouse, after which he will rush to his service centre at Jalan Datuk Keramat here.

Jagdeep has his hands full overseeing his constituency.

The issues he has to deal with include drainage and irrigation problems and people being unable to secure low-cost housing, he said.

During the state assembly sitting, Jagdeep will be raising the issue of transportation and reduction of traffic jams and crime, as well as the status of complaints on abuse of power and corruption involving the previous state government.

E-tracking complaints from voters - The Star


A state representative here has introduced an online e-tracking system for his constituents, which he believes is the first of its kind in the country.

Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin said the system would record details of individual complaints such as the number of days since the complaints were received, who in his staff they were directed to, pending actions and the urgency of the problems.

“I don’t think any elected representative has introduced a proper system to handle online complaints like this,” he told reporters yesterday during the soft launch of his service centre located opposite Bukit Jambul Complex at Jalan Rumbai.

PKR Rakyat de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will launch the centre tomorrow.

Sim said the people had all along been e-mailing their representatives about their problems.

“The system that I have introduced will remind me or my staff and volunteers of the complaints that are pending for action,” he said.

Like e-mail applications, it also allows attachments of documents and pictures.

Sim’s service centre IT manager and financial planner Sam S’ng said it took about a month to develop the system.

He said the system would also show what had been done to resolve community problems as well as record the assemblyman and his staff’s performance just like a report card.

To lodge complaints to Sim and his staff, Pantai Jerejak constituents can log on to

The service centre is open from 2pm to 8pm every Tuesday and Thursday and 10am to 2pm every Saturday.

Those seeking help from Sim can call the centre’s hotline 019-4432088 during the operating hours.

Penang land scams to be made public soon - The Star


A report on alleged land scams in the previous state administration will be submitted to the state executive council in the first week of July.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said they would make public the findings as former deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah had failed to give an explanation before the April 28 deadline.

“Deputy Chief Minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin who is leading the investigation will table the findings during the first exco meeting of July,” he told newsmen.

Abdul Rashid had earlier challenged Lim to expose the alleged discrepancies, complete with specific details including lot numbers, locations and names of landowners.

Lim also said the state was mulling over the possibility of re-introducing free shuttle bus services to help ease hardship faced by the people because of the drastic increase in fuel price. He also announced that the state government would go ahead with the Penang Bridge Marathon in October, after the Hari Raya celebration.

On the proposed second bridge project, Lim said the state was of the opinion that the project should continue although the estimated cost increased from RM2.7bil to RM4.3bil.

Lim added that the construction of the second bridge was scheduled to be completed by 2011 and work on the pre cast beams was already 50% completed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kah Choon's plan: Penang a MICE hub - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (June 13, 2008): By Opalyn Mok

InvestPenang aims to turn Penang into a premier hub for meetings, incentives and exhibitions (MICE) in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Golden Triangle (IMT GT).
InvestPenang executive director Datuk Lee Kah Choon said one of the shortcomings of Penang is the lack of international standard MICE facilities.

"So we are seriously looking at pulling in investors to develop MICE facilities here," he said.

The state government has already identified four sites on the island and mainland which can be used to build a MICE centre, complete with infrastructure and facilities.

"We will need to conduct feasibility studies first to see the suitability of the land," he said, adding that the plots identified include state-owned and reclamation land.

The project will be opened up for tender by any foreign or even local investors. The whole process will include a request for concept, request for proposal and request for quotation from the interested investors.

"Only the most competitive bidder will get the job and we hope to kickstart this whole project in two to three years," he told a press conference on the future plans and current investment issues in Penang at InvestPenang office in Bayan Baru here on today.

He added that InvestPenang is also streamlining its expenditure due to rising costs but this does not mean it is cutting down its staff or its investment missions.

"We will continue to intensify investment missions internationally and locally but we will do it at lower costs by flying economy, staying at three-star hotels or less and car pooling for domestic travel," he said.

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, who is also a member of the board of committee of InvestPenang and who was present at the press conference, said there is a need for the federal government to look at giving tax reliefs for the industries and investors here to cushion the effect of the petrol price hike.

"One of the companies have told me that due to increasing costs, the company will have to fork out additional RM42 million per year," he said.

He added although the government introduced measures to cushion the effects for Malaysians at large, the industries and investors were forgotten.

"They are the major consumers of energy and they should at least be given tax relief or have their corporate tax abolished for this year," he said.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sorry, no free water in Penang - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (June 12, 2008): By Opalyn Mok

The Penang government will not do away with water tariffs like Selangor nor will it increase the rates this year.

"We have no plans to provide free water to Penangites because the rates here are still the cheapest in the country," Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said.

He said the water consumption rate in Penang is also one of the highest in the country, so it is not feasible to provide free water.

"Maybe it's because water tariff rates are low, that's why Penangites tend to waste water, and we want people to conserve water," he said.

He said only when water is expensive will people not waste it.

However, this does not mean the state government plans to increase the water tariff rates this year.

"It is also unlikely that we will increase the rates next year," he said.

The only reason the state government would consider increasing water tariff rates is if water consumption jumps astronomically.

"Then we may consider increasing it to save water," he told a press conference in the Penang International Sports Arena here today.

On another matter, Lim described the 60% increase in the cost of the Penang second bridge from RM2.7 billion to RM4.3 billion in one year as frightening.

"Even with increasing prices of petrol and materials, how could it increase by RM1.6 billion within a a year?

"The inflation rate last year was only about 2% so the costs should only increase by 2%, not 60%," he said.

Lim said the higher cost will only burden the people of Penang as it would mean higher toll rates.

"They should get Petronas to sponsor the bridge project. What is RM4.3 billion to them if they could spend extravagantly on gala dinners overseas and buying their own private jets?" he said.

He also said the federal government should explain to the people why the costs have increased so much within a year.

Penang to Fed Govt: Explain 60% hike in bridge cost - The Star


The cost of the second Penang Bridge has ballooned from RM2.7bil to RM4.5bil within a year and the state government wants an explanation.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said there was no reason for such a huge increase as the official rate of inflation in 2007 was around 2.3%.

“On one hand, the federal government says there is a 2% inflation rate, but at the same time they have allowed a 60% increase of about RM1.6bil for the second bridge.

“If the inflation rate is 2%, then the cost of the bridge should only rise by 2%, and if inflation is truly at 60%, then our salaries should be raised 60%,” Lim said after opening a building exhibition at the Penang International Sports Arena.

He said the federal government had to explain the steep increase in costs as Penangites would eventually have to bear the expense through toll rates.

When asked about the rising cost of raw materials such as steel, Lim said the producer price inflation was set at about 5% last year.

“The rise in the price of raw materials would also have been included when counting the inflation rate.”

On talk of Federal Government opening up the second Penang Bridge project for tender, Lim said he supported the move.

“The Penang government has always welcomed the idea of an open tender as it will produce the best and most competitive price for the second bridge. If the Federal Government plans to review the project and introduce an open tender, the state would be 100% behind the move,” he said.

The project was awarded last year to UEM World Bhd which formed a joint venture with China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd (CHEC) to build the second bridge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Penang sets up 'freedom of info' committee - The Star


Penang has formed an ad hoc committee to set guidelines on information that the public and the media can access directly from government departments without any hassle.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the committee’s aim was to create a "freedom of information" culture at a level that was comfortable to all.

“We want to provide an avenue and opportunity for the mass media and the public, where information that is not sensitive or classified as secret can be obtained freely and for free,” he told a press conference after chairing the state executive council meeting on Wednesday.

He said state Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Abdul Malik Abul Kassim would head the committee, assisted by state Town and Country Planning and Housing committee chairman Wong Hon Wai and a representative from the state secretariat.

Lim said the committee would direct the departments to categorise and classify information that can be released to the public.

He said it would also ascertain whether these categorisations were proper, appropriate and reasonable.

He said the committee would then hold discussions with media representatives and non-governmental organisations for their opinions, and come up with guidelines on how such information could be obtained directly from the departments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MPPP gets injunction against Gurney Plaza developer - The Sun

GEORGE TOWN (June 10, 2008): By Bernard Cheah

The High Court here granted the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) an inter parte injunction to prevent a developer from carrying out extension works on the Gurney Plaza mall after working hours.
The inter parte injunction against Etika Cekap Sdn Bhd, as well as Gurney Plaza Sdn Bhd, BEP Arkitek Sdn Bhd and RB Contracts Sdn Bhd, was made to stop construction work of the nine-storey building beyond 8am to 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays as well as Sundays and public holidays.

High Court Judge Datuk Ghazali Cha granted the order in chambers yesterday after hearing submissions from both the plaintiff and the defendants yesterday.

Ghazali said it was clear from the evidence that MPPP had given numerous notices and warnings to the developer to stop work beyond the permitted hours.

However, there were still breaches in the limitations imposed on the working hours.

Ghazali found that the reasons given for the said breaches were "remeh" (trivial), stressing that the defendants could overcome their problem with proper planning.

He said the issue not only attracted public interest but also of the government, including the chief minister, wherein the developer had placed economic interests over public interest.

No trial date has been fixed.

The defendants asked for an oral application for stay of execution but were told to submit a written application.

The defendants, represented by Jeyasingam Balasingam, K. Kirubakaran and Mureli Navaratnam, indicated they will appeal.

The plaintiff's counsels were Dominic Pillai, Karin Lim and William Lim.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and MPPP president Datuk Zainal Rahim Seman had visited the construction site on May 14.

Guan Eng had then reportedly expressed dissatisfaction that the developer did not heed warnings by the local authorities not to conduct construction work beyond the permitted hours.

'Call to scrap bridge undermined investors' confidence' - The Sun

SEBERANG PERAI (June 9, 2008): By Opalyn Mok

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng says Penang Umno's call for the second bridge to be scrapped had undermined foreign investors' confidence in the state.

"Umno's call in March has particularly affected investments from (South) Korea," he added.

"My trip to (South) Korea was to restore their (Koreans) confidence and although we know that the bridge will commence and be built due to assurances from the second finance minister, we have to try very hard to convince them about this," he said.

He added that if necessary, he may have to make another trip to (South) Korea to give them further assurances that the bridge project will commence.

Lim said his recent trip to Hongkong and (South) Korea was a business networking visit to reintroduce Penang to investors.

"Many in Hongkong have not been to Penang since 15 or 20 years ago, so it is time for them to re-visit Penang," he said.

Speaking in a press conference after the ground breaking ceremony of Ibiden Electronics Malaysia Sdn Bhd in the Penang Science Park in Bukit Minyak today, Lim said there are companies in the biotechnology, high technology, manufacturing and service industries with high wage job opportunities that are interested in coming to Penang.

"It is not appropriate for me to announce which companies are coming here as confidentiality is important. We have to respect the confidentiality of the companies and let them make their announcements," he said.

Lim described vernacular Chinese newspaper reports quoting certain politicians as revealing foreign investors' plan as "irresponsible".

"These politicians, especially those who have been in this for 18 years, should understand that this should be kept in strict confidentiality. It could be efforts by them (the politicians) to discourage investments here," he said.

"We should not identify companies which have not finalised their decisions to invest here as we must respect their need for strict confidentiality," he said.

It is believed one of the politicians Lim was referring to is former Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon who has been quoted by the vernacular newspapers.

Lift the burden, govt urged - The Star


The Penang Government can inject over RM93mil into the economy by reducing assessment rates and rental of public housing, and waiving hawker's fees.

The Penang Gerakan local government bureau suggested the move as short-term positive measures for the state to help Penangites in view of recent price hikes.

The bureau’s six former municipal councillors, led by Teh Leong Meng, proposed that the state grant a 50% reduction in assessment for all residential and commercial properties, and a 70% reduction in rental of public housing owned by the state and its two municipal councils.

Making proposals: Teh (right) speaking at the press conference. With him are Dr Lim and Mohan.

They also proposed that the state waive the rental and licensing fees for all stalls in markets, hawkers' complexes and temporary hawker sites owned by the state and the municipal councils.

The six – Teh, Tan Yeow Joo and Lim Kean Guan from Penang Municipal Council (MPPP), and Dr Lim Boon Han, A. Mohan and Phee Boon Choon from Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) – made the proposals at a press conference at the Penang Gerakan headquarters yesterday.

Teh said that based on the 2007 budgets of the local councils, the proposed steps would cost the MPPP RM53.99mil and the MPSP RM39.38mil.

“For MPPP, the amount is only 28.14% of its total income of RM191.86mil. We believe that with a competent government bent on cutting down on unnecessary overheads and excesses, the council will be able to make it,” he added.

Dr Lim said that for MPSP, the sum was only 26.5% in reduction from its yearly RM148mil income.

“It is not a very big amount, especially with the state government’s idea of transparency, good governance and prudent spending,” he said.

Teh said the measures should reduce the inflationary pressure and help the people, especially the poor and needy, to tide over the difficult period brought about by the fuel price increase and the price hike due to the food crisis.

”While we wait for the Federal Government to help the people throughout the nation, the state government can do something concrete to help the people of Penang,” he said.

Asked if the previous state administration could have introduced such steps, Teh said the situation did not arise in the past as the people were not facing such abnormal circumstances brought about by the food crisis and the Federal Government reducing petrol subsidy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Council gets cracking on woes of residents - The Star


A Panel of professionals will look into allegations that construction work on an apartment project in Taman Sutera Prima, Seberang Jaya, had caused cracks on several double-storey houses nearby.

Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Farizan Darus said the developer was slapped with a second stop-work order effective last Friday after the first order, issued in April, was lifted in May.

“We will station our enforcement officers at the project site. If there is any truth to the residents’ claim, the contractor has violated the second stop-work order,” he said after visiting the project site and affected houses on Monday evening.

He said the council would decide on the next course of action after the panel’s findings and recommenda-tions.

Getting to the root of the problem: Farizan (second left) at the site of the project.

Farizan said the panel comprised representatives from Malaysia Public Works Institute (Ikram), Cons-truction Industry Development Board Malaysia (CIDB), Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and technical officers from the council.

On May 6, Taman Sutera Prima residents highlighted their fears to Deputy Chief Minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin who instructed the relevant authorities to sort out the matter.

Taman Sutera Prima Residents Action Committee chairman Amirudeen Saidu Mohamed, 30, said cracks had appeared especially on 38 units in Lorong Sutera Prima 7 which were merely 12m away from the project site.

“We have been staying here for 18 months. The cracks started appearing when piling work on the project began last December.

“It has been four months since we complained to the relevant authorities, but the matter has yet to be resolved,” he said.

He said they wanted an assurance that their homes were safe to stay despite the cracks.

The project comprises a 38-storey and a 24-storey apartment block as well as a 10-storey car park block.

Seberang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah said the developer must give due attention to the residents’ safety when carrying out construction work.

“Instead of hammering columns under the present spun piling method, the developer should switch to the bore piling method using drills when constructing the two other blocks later on.

“This may help reduce the impact on the nearby housing units,” he said.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

From leasehold to freehold - The Star


FOR many, it’s like striking lottery. Leaseholders of state land have welcomed Pe-nang’s new land policy allowing them to convert their property to freehold status as it would mean an increase in property prices.

Pioneer Bayan Baru resident and the area’s Rukun Tetangga chairman Chai Tsing Boo, 64, said he would meet with the township’s various residents associations (RA) and Bayan Baru MP Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim to discuss the procedures for getting their residential leasehold titles converted.

“Everything we know so far is from the media. I think it is im-portant to speak to a state representative who can advise us on what needs to be done so that we can submit the relevant forms collectively,” he said.

According to Chai, “thousands and thousands” of Bayan Baru township homeowners would benefit from the policy as a majority of the homes there were built by the Penang Development Cor-poration (PDC).

“Developed in 1974, my single storey terrace house was under the first phase of PDC’s Bayan Ba-ru development comprising 477 single-storey terrace houses and 74 units of single-storey semi-detached houses.

Big change soon:These leasehold flats at Gat Lebuh Macallum were built by PDC.

“The unit was originally priced at RM29,500. Today, despite being a 99-year leasehold property, the value has increased by sevenfold.

“Some of my neighbours who have renovated their homes ma-naged to sell them for about RM300,000,” he said, adding that there was “about 30 years” left on his lease.

“Of course I will take advantage of the conversion policy because I want to leave our family home to my children,” he said, adding that under the last administration, a si-milar conversion policy was allo-wed but only for certain areas.

Food outlet owner Azhar Ramli and his mother, Halijah Yusof, were both unaware of the new policy but welcomed the news.

“Between my two siblings and me, we own two commercial shop lots and four flats in Bayan Baru – all are 99-year leasehold properties by PDC.

“We definitely want to convert our residential titles and will find out more at the Land Office on the procedures involved. Hopefully the premium won’t be too high,” Azhar, 36, said.

Halijah was “very happy” but hoped the policy could be extended to include conversion of commercial leasehold units into freehold titles as well.

A photographer who only wan-ted to be known as Ch’ng, said he would not be “rushing” to convert his land just yet.

“We don’t know how long it will take for the re-alienation to take place. If it is within six months, then I will consider.

“For people like us who are not planning on selling our units, the increase in value after conversion doesn’t really make a difference. In fact, we may end up paying more in assessment after conversion,” the 56-year-old said.

Penang Development Corpora-tion Properties Sdn Bhd (PDCP) chief executive officer Osman Kallahan said he was in “total agreement” with the new land policy as it would benefit the rakyat.

“The change in title will add value to the property, making it more ‘bankable’. This will allow PDC home owners to upgrade their lives and standard of living,” he said, adding that prior to 2005, all PDC development projects in the state were leasehold properties.

“In the past 35 years, PDC had built 22,000 homes but since PDCP was incorporated three years ago, we have developed four freehold projects on the island and mainland.

“With this new policy, we hope

Govt has legal right to convert - The Star

Jun 3, 2008

A senior lawyer in his 80s said all land matters came under the purview of the state government – including conver-sion.

“Allowing conversion would ensure that property remained in the family,” he opined, adding that once converted to freehold status, the government could only compel the landowners to sell the property under the Land Acquisi-tion Act if certain conditions were met.

“Among these requirements are that the state would need to acquire the land for some public purpose and even then, compensation according to mar-ket value must be made,” he said.

Lawyer Goh Kok Thye said the Federal Constitution and National Land Code (NLC) clearly empo-wered the state to convert the land’s status.

“Although there is no specific provision under the NLC for land conversion, the law clearly allows it,” he said.

Another lawyer, Geeta Suresh Chand said state-owned land could be alienated through free-hold or leasehold grants and the government was well within its rights to facilitate any conversion it deemed fit.

“All conversion premiums will go to the state’s coffers which can then be used to further develop Penang,” she said.

However, lawyer Eugene Cheong said a systematic conver-sion application mechanism must be developed.

“Normally, the state alienates its land to the Penang Deve- lopment Corporation (PDC). The majority of those who will bene- fit from this policy are low and medium cost leasehold home-owners who may not have access to legal representation and are not well-versed in procedural land matters.

“Lim’s announcement is timely and much welcomed but now that the floodgates are open, we must make sure that the layman is able to benefit,” he said, adding that to convert the property’s status, a formal appli-cation must be made to the Land Office which will then forward the application to the state land executive commit- tee.

“Usually, it is the developer who will apply for the conversion on behalf of the home owners but if the property has already been transferred to the individual, he or she will have to do it,” he said.

Cheong noted that the NLC did not specify the premium payment but the state should consider lowering the sum for low-income earners.

Describing the conversion poli-cy as creating a “win-win situa-tion” for everyone, he said an individual would benefit as free-hold property was more valuable and the state would increase its funds.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Seven errant parking operators to be replaced

The Star - Jun 2, 2008 By LOOI SUE-CHERN

THE services of seven parking operators will be terminated by Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) after they are found to have cheated and over charged motorists of their parking fees.

The seven operators will be replaced next month after MPPP found them to have overcharged, issuing tickets for cars parked outside the parking lots, not issuing tickets according to the collection time and not wearing badges to identify themselves as authorised parking attendants.

MPPP councillor Tan Hun Wooi said the operators were identified when they conducted spot-checks around the island following public complaints.

He said all the operators involved were found to have violated their maximum demerit points to allow them to operate the business.

“The seven companies had accumulated demerit points of between 85 and 196,” he said.

The maximum demerit points allowed are 75.

Tan said MPPP was in the process of appointing new contractors via tenders to replace the errant operators.

“The selection process for the new operators is being held and the operators are expected to start next month.”

He said the current operators’ contracts, which lapsed in May, had not been renewed but the operators were allowed to continue operations on a monthly basis until replacements were found.

He also said motorists should take extra efforts to inspect their parking tickets and receipts to ensure they were not cheated by the unscrupulous operators.

Tan said this after officiating the third Penang Cheshire Agoonoree at Penang Cheshire Home at Babington Avenue on Saturday.

He said MPPP was also looking at introducing a new parking system for Penang starting March next year.

“Among the systems proposed are the coupon system, prepaid scan system and automatic ticket system like the one in Petaling Jaya,” he said.