THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Monday, December 22, 2008

> Tough going for Penang

Nearly nine months after being sworn in as the chief minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng has admitted it was tough going for him in his new role but vowed he would not be cowed by anyone except by the people who put him in power.

Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition alliance in power in five states, and the Barisan Nasional are worlds apart in their politics, he told the Daily Express in an interview in Kota Kinabalu recently.

Lim, who has been under pressure by Umno in particular over various issues "without success", had not surprisingly more brickbats than bouquets for BN leaders, especially Umno, the federal government and Petronas.

Outgoing PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in particular came in for severe criticism when he castigated him for "not respecting" him (Lim) as the duly elected CM of Penang and denying the state a fair share of federal grants.

“On the other hand, I have "the utmost respect" for him (Badawi). I look forward to a better relationship with Najib Tun Razak when he takes over,” Lim said.

'Azalina is terrible'

He also hopes that Najib will abolish the Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act and allow local elections. At present, local councils are directly appointed by the state government, and in Pakatan Rakyat-run states, appears to be the proverbial tail waving the dog.

Among other BN leaders, he singled out Tourism Minister Azalina Othman as "the worst" of the Umno leaders. "She's terrible. She plays politics to the hilt. She plays vengeance politics," said Lim without elaborating.

The Penang CM appears perplexed by Petronas which he sees as having a sapu habis (take all) mentality instead of giving something back to the people and pledges that when the Pakatan Rakyat takes over the federal government, the new administration in PutraJaya will allocate a third of the national oil corporation's huge income for distribution to the people i.e. RM500 a month or RM 6,000 a year to each family that deserves the aid.

He was keener to emphasise his administration's good relationship with the Transport, Works, Finance and Trade ministries. Minister of International Trade and Industry Muhyiddin Yassin and Second Finance Minister Nor Mohd Yakop, a Penangite, came in for particular praise from Lim. 

"They (Muhyiddin and Mohd Nor) are co-operative and quite understanding because they know that if you can get investments, the country benefits. After all, when you pay tax 20 per cent, every single sen goes to the federal government. It doesn't go to the state government," said Lim.

"They always say, 'if we can do business with other countries like Singapore which are much more difficult, you can't do business with DAP kah?'. That's why the RM4.3 billion Second Penang Bridge deal has been done and construction has commenced."

Lim also mentions that Umno is generally trying to make things as difficult as possible for him, judging by their reaction so far to his administration and this includes extreme hostility and confrontationist approaches against the new Penang state government's policies on reining in the excesses of the New Economic Policy, putting more teeth into the anti-corruption drive, extension of the poverty eradication programmes to all irrespective of politics and race and putting up road signs in Tamil, Chinese and Arabic, besides English and Malay.

Sticking to our guns

"We are overcoming these problems by sticking to our guns, by persevering and being persistent. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We will only bow to the people. We will not bow to other forces," said Lim.

The CM cited his administration's immediate goals as the eradication of hardcore poverty by next year, make Penang a wifi state and turn it into an international city, and combat corruption. "We will use the sheer logic of arguments. We want to base policies based on facts, not falsehoods, on reason and not emotion, on principles and not prejudices."

"We will do in one year what the BN Government has not been able to do in 50 years i.e. the eradication of hardcore poverty," said Lim

The Penang CM denies that his father Kit Siang exercises an undue influence on him or that he turns to his wife, Betty Chew, who is an state assemblywoman in Malacca on matters of state.

"We seek advice from the people and also our comrades. We are an open government, we listen to the people, we believe in consultation, we believe in participation." he added - Malaysiakini.