Many Penangites are fed up with Lim’s blame game to always censure the previous BN administration over everything and anything that goes wrong in the current government.
Athi Shankar, FMT
Lim Guan Eng is finally feeling the political heat of helming the Penang Chief Minister Office (CMO), the highest state administration authority, in Komtar Level 28.
The sky-rocketing property prices beyond the reach of even middle-class families and the non-existent of new affordable homes for lower-income locals triggered the fire.
Now it is turning into a huge fireball threatening to burn his short but knotty stint as the state chief executive officer.
The public outcry against on-going massive hillside posh housing developments to cater to the greedy needs of the higher income group, including outsiders from other states and foreigners, is threatening his fragile position.
Coupled with a shrouded allegation of a sex scandal against him, Lim should know by now that he faces a rising people tide against his political administrative style.
Lim faces an unprecedented mounting public pressure against hillside development and destruction of the green lungs on the island.
Luckily for him, the fiasco over Kampung Buah Pala – an ethnic Indian traditional village – happened in 2009 when he was still enjoying a political honeymoon.
If it had happened now, the now-flattened village, once commonly known as “Tamil High Chaparral”, would be the final nail to end Lim’s fledgling political career in Penang.
When the middle-income group, who makes up two-thirds of Penang local population, started to question Lim’s administrative style and decision-making process, things are surely turning wrong for the initially-popular DAP-helmed Pakatan Rakyat state government.
Truth is many Penangites are fed up with Lim’s blame game of always censuring the previous Barisan Nasional administration in the public eyes over everything and anything that goes wrong in the current government.
Lim has shifted blame on BN for the approvals given by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) on 19 high-rise projects above 76m in height (sea level limit), claiming that they were all approved before March 2008.
MPPP president Patahiyah Ismail came in with a supporting statement that the projects were all approved either directly or as special projects by the previous government.
When faced with a barrage of criticisms and widespread protests for playing the routine blame game instead of addressing the issue, Lim claimed the state government would have to fork out millions to stop the projects.
But BN psy-war bureau chief Loga Bala Mohan said the state government can review all controversial hillslope projects by enforcing stop-work orders pending a comprehensive safety and environmental impact study.
“Lim should not take the easy way out by blaming the previous administration,” he said.
During a protest against hillside project in Sungai Ara, a resident bluntly told Lim that the project was approved by his government a few months ago, not by the previous state government as Penangites were made to believe.
Although taken aback by the hard truth, Lim feigned ignorance and blamed it on alleged loopholes that allowed the approval to slip through his office.
Since assuming the chief minister’s seat in 2008, Lim has been trying to project himself as a vocal political spokesman by condemning anything and everything under BN, including in other states.
He has even been an outspoken critic against the Lynas plant in Pahang.
But when it comes down to his own governance in Penang, he has taken the path of first, denial mode, then silent mode and finally switch-off mode.
His motto is “just blame the previous BN government”. But the tactic is not working now.
Many are saying that Lim should have corrected the past wrongs when he took over the chief minister’s office.
Instead of addressing their grouses, they are fed up with Lim for constantly twisting, turning and twirling media tales to blame the previous government for all the hillside developments on the island.
“After all, we voted out the previous administration due to its policies which ignored public interests.
“We wanted a new state government with a difference, not a Xerox copy,” they said.
For Penangites, the hills located in the middle of the island are sacrosanct.
The hills that cover the island’s eastern part of the tourist belt between Tanjung Bunga and Teluk Bahang, and Balik Pulau and Sungai Ara on the western part are natural green lung, forest and water reserves that provide a natural backdrop for the bustling city lying along the coastal line.
These green hills are nature’s historical gifts to a typical tropical resort island.
To Penangites, the natural treasure must be cherished, relished, preserved and conserved by all – from the chief minister to the ordinary lay man, at all costs.
Corrupted approval system
During a full council meeting recently, MPPP’s NGO councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui called on the authorities to hold public consultations when approving development projects.
For example, he said that special committees should be set up to liaise wth developers, engineers and architects to facilitate and fast-track projects.
But, he noted that there were few, if any, such avenues or committees to address the concerns of ordinary citizens on the projects.
He said that allegations of developers taking over Penang may just be true due to a “corrupted” approval system.
Even Penang-born DAP assemblyman for Tanjung Bungah, Teh Yee Cheu, voiced out public concerns against unscrupulous hillslope and high-rise developments, especially in his constituency.
Teh’s outburst is the first time a local DAP assemblyman has challenged the “almighty” Lim’s iron-gripped authority since he parachuted into the CMO.
For his trouble, Teh was hauled up by state DAP leadership to explain his remarks.
But Teh remained defiant, insisting that he would continue to speak up for the people.
Teh’s defiance has surely rattled Lim and indicated that not all is well within DAP.
It will inevitably open the space for others within DAP to speak up against the embattled Lim.
Currently many local party leaders have formed a faction against “parachuted” elected representatives.
The next state party election, which may be held in October, would surely reflect this division in DAP ranks.
The ill-wind has been blowing against Lim for quite a while now, especially since local stalwart Phee Boon Poh was voted out from the state leadership in 2010.
Grassroots pressure is also growing to force Lim to relinquish his chief minister’s post and contest only a federal seat in the next general election.
They want a local man to take over.
One should recall that Malacca DAP booted Lim and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng out from the state committee before he was welcomed with open arms by Penang DAP, thanks to the influence of his father, Kit Siang.
Some Penang DAP members told FMT that at times they felt embarrassed when their Malacca counterparts mocked them for accepting their political outcast.