30Mei2020

Agenda Daily

PUTTING THE BN IN AN AWKWARD POSITION

It was a shrewd move by the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to appoint Datuk Lee Kah Choon, a former Gerakan Member of Parliament, as director of the Penang Development Corporation and chairman of the executive committee of Invest-Penang. In one bold stroke, he has ensured the continuity in PDC’s management and put the Barisan Nasional in a very awkward position.

 

IN PENANG, THE PENANG DEVELOPMENT Corporation (PDC) is sacred. It’s so influential that it’s often seen as the real power behind the state government.


The PDC is one of the most successful state investment promotion agencies in the country.


It was, in a way, the product of the 1969 race riots and the change of government from the MCA-led Alliance to the Opposition Gerakan. Gerakan and the Islamic party Pas later joined the Alliance to form the Barisan Nasional (BN).


PDC was incorporated in November 1969 to develop, plan, implement and promote development projects on behalf of the state government in three main areas, namely, property development, entrepreneur development and investment.


It participates in such sectors as education, healthcare services, tourism, hotels, heritage

products, warehousing, marina development and consultancy. In recent years, new activities like agrobased, aquaculture, farming, hotel management, biotechnology and telecommunication services have been added.


Thus, in spite of its limited land area and comparatively high labour cost, Penang leads many

other states in attracting investment – both local and foreign.


Last year, it attracted 134 projects with a proposed investment amounting to RM4.8 billion, translating into a per capita investment of RM3,406 – probably the highest in the country.


So, when the DAP-led state government decided to appoint Datuk Lee Kah Choon, a former Gerakan Member of Parliament, as director of PDC and chairman of the executive committee of Invest- Penang, it caused more than just a sensation.


The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on April 22, said Lee’s acceptance of the appointments was against the BN spirit.


A day earlier, his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said members of BN-component parties should not take up appointments in Pakatan Rakyatled state governments.


Lee responded on April 23 by quitting Gerakan, saying that his objective has been clear and

consistent throughout his political career, which is to serve the people.


He resigned from all party posts after Gerakan’s annihilation in Penang at the hands of the Opposition at the March 8 polls. He was the party’s deputy secretary-general.


It was a shrewd move by the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. In one bold stroke, he ensured the continuity in PDC’s management and put the BN in a very awkward position.


Former Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik sarcastically thanked the DAP for choosing Lee for the posts.


He said by appointing Lee, the DAP acknowledged that it lacked suitable local personalities, as it has too many ‘helicopter’ leaders from other states.


Bowling them over


THE DAP’s overtures could have wide-ranging implications on the ability of the BN parties, in

particular Gerakan, to regroup after their humiliating defeat.


Lee may be the only Gerakan bigwig to effectively ‘defect’ to Pakatan Rakyat but may not be the last.


Both the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat have invited him to join them.


The Pakatan’s de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has made it clear that he’s not sparing any efforts to entice BN representatives to cross over to his side.


The Star newspaper on April 24 quoted him as saying in Kota Kinabalu that Pakatan Rakyat was in a position to form the Federal Government no later than Malaysia Day on Sept 16.


Still, it may be hasty to speculate on the unraveling of Gerakan or any other component parties of the BN. But Lee’s decision to leave the party in favour of working with the DAP does little to shore up Gerakan’s tattered image and esteem.


Even the more successful Umno is losing patience. In a meeting with Najib and key members of the party’s Supreme Council, the majority of state leaders were adamant that Abdullah resign as Prime Minister and party president.


Additionally, Lim’s magnanimous gestures since winning the state on March 8 have won praises from the various sections of Penang’s multiracial population.


His appearance at the recent Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebration bowled over the Malays and other Muslims in the state.


The offer of the important posts to an adversary suggests that the new Penang Chief Minister is resorting to neutralizing the opponents via cooperation instead of confrontation.


He is willing to be unpopular with his own party in trying to ensure the continued prosperity of the coveted state.


‘Let us take the bitterness and unnecessary anger out of politics. We want to be fair to everyone. We do not want to differentiate or discriminate,’ he said.


EXCUSE ME, ARE YOU A BLOGGER?


SUDDENLY, everybody wants to be a blogger. I am referring specifically to Umno politicians because only months ago, they were saying vile things and making wild allegations against bloggers.


Using the mainstream media to broadcast their hatred, they accused bloggers of everything fromtelling lies to being penembak curi (snipers), goblok (the Javanese equivalent to country yokels) and selfgratifiers.


That was largely because they had very little knowledge about blogs and bloggers. They thought all bloggers write about politics and were against the government.


Briefly, blogs or weblogs are online journals kept by individuals – from schoolchildren to writers, politicians and corporate titans. Bill Gates has a blog and so does Barack Obama.


Instead of keeping our logs in the atomic form – a logbook – we now keep our logs in a digital form on the worldwide web. And instead of sharing with our sweethearts and buddies, we share with whoever cares to visit our sites.


A few days ago, one of the most virulent critics of blogs, Umno Information Chief and Minister of Rural and Regional Development Senator, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib, started his own blog.

Not surprisingly, his posts were about praising all the Prime Minister’s decisions and debunking all suggestions of opposition to Abdullah.


His blog makes no pretence about its partisan biasness and unequivocal support for the

Prime Minister.


Had the outcome of the March 8 polls been different, mainstream politicians like Muhammad, the former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and the Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam might have not embraced this alternative medium.


The outcome of the March 8 polls changed all that.


Suddenly, blogs have become the tool of choice for every politician, including one who thought blogging was a waste of time and would not win him an election.


Even Abdullah, who has at his command the entire mainstream media, had grudgingly acknowledged that blogs played a role in influencing the outcome of the polls.


Clearly people like Muhammad, Mohd Khir and Mohd Ali are not blogging because they like blogging, but because blogs provide them with a new audience.


In the last three to four years, many readers of mainstream newspapers have migrated to the online media. Some were driven away by the one-sided reporting of the mainstream media while others attracted to the independence of the Internet.The bastion of state propaganda, Radio dan Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), which until weeks ago made the maligning of the Internet the staple of its psychological warfare, is changing.


In an atypical brave move, the new Information Minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, consented to the introduction of a 20-minute segment on blogs on RTM’s TV1 primetime news every Sunday from April 20 onwards.


UPHOLDING THE INTEGRITY OF THE JUDICIARY


THE question regarding the proposal to establish a commission to appoint judges has been so widely publicised and politicised that the only reasonable way to look at it is from a political point of view.


I can’t pretend to be representing anybody’s view other than my own. Since my power in this whole matter lies in my position as a citizen of the country and a voter, I would say that I will place my bet on a bad elected politician any day than on a good president of the Bar Council.


My premise is if the bad elected politician makes a mistake, I can vote him out in four our five years’ time. But if a good Bar Council president makes a mistake, what recourse do I have?

The Constitution is clear on this matter. Article 122B states: ‘The Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judges of the High Courts and (subject to Article 122C) the other judges of the Federal Court, of the Court of Appeal and the High Courts shall be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, after consulting the Conference of Rulers.’


The Constitution is also clear who the Prime Minister should consult before tendering his advice to the King. So, as a voter, I hold the Prime Minister responsible.


Now that the minister in charge of law, Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, has feted the Bar using

taxpayers money, and the Prime Minister has made a commitment on the formation of the commission and by extension is fait accompli, my question is: Who is taking care of the interest of the judges? Who is speaking for them?


Obviously, they can’t be making statements like politicians and lawyers. Still we are interested to hear what they think of this ‘grand idea’. Yet, they cannot speak openly like Zaid and the Bar Chairwoman, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.


What I have been able to gather from a variety of sources is that the judges are of the view that the were formation of the commission is a policy decision for the Executive to make.


Their concern – like mine – is to ensure that the right people are appointed to the commission.

My personal feeling is people who have vested interest in the courts – like lawyers and corporate figures — should not be appointed to the commission.


I can’t imagine having a lawyer deciding on the appointment of judges, and this lawyer later appearing before the judge that she or he had helped to select.


Then, there’s the question of numbers, bearing in mind that not all the judges who are members may be able to vote on all appointments because either they are involved in these appointments or their participation may constitute a conflict of interest.


Rightly, the top five of the Judiciary – the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judges of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah — should be members. The number representing the official and private sector should be thoroughly considered so as not to give an advantage to any one side.


In trying to enhance the image and integrity of the Judiciary, a situation should not be created whereby the public may think that judges are beholden to the lawyers because the latter had a say in their appointment and promotion.


Maybe, for a start, the scope of the commission should be limited to first-time appointees to such posts as High Court judges and judicial commissioners.


Thus, in the matter of the Judiciary, as a citizen and a voter, I would take my chances with the politicians, no matter how much I suspect their motives, because if they do a bad job, I can always vote them out.

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