Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sparks fly over 'RM30m embezzlement' - The Sun

Himanshu Bhatt and Opalyn Mok at the Penang State Assembly yesterday

PENANG (July 22, 2008) :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So, this is not menyeleweng."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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