DAP-PKR ties in Penang under stress
(Agenda Daily) – Even as the eyes of the nation are fixed on the ongoing annual Umno general assembly, the cohesiveness of the DAP-led Pakatan Harapan in Penang is beginning to unravel.
Umno may be the dominant party in the country, having ruled since Independence 58 years ago, but DAP with the second highest number of federal elected representatives wields influence in its own right, especially in Penang.
It has 37 MPs, after Umno with a thumping 88. In its bastion of Penang, DAP holds sway with 19 state seats, led by the visionary and combative Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is the Air Putih assemblyman.
But of late, Lim has been caught in a dispute with PKR, which has 10 state seats and is considered a strategic partner of DAP in Penang. The other seats are held by Barisan Nasional (Umno) with 10 while PAS has one seat.
Lim and the state DAP were not bemused by the recent episode where five PKR assemblymen abstained on a BN-sponsored motion in the state assembly seeking better public scrutiny of land reclamation projects.
Lim was aghast that elected representatives of an ally had the audacity not to align themselves with Pakatan Harapan.
Lim’s political secretary Wong Hon Wai even condemned the PKR assemblymen’s action as a “stab in the back” on DAP.
While DAP was caught by surprise and upset by the PKR assemblymen’s action, DAP’s reaction to their antics only served to muddy the situation.
Party insiders within PKR are unhappy with DAP’s latest salvo, saying it has gone overboard and put PKR in a spot.
“A man, when cornered, will fight his way out,” said one of the five PKR assemblymen, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
He said PKR will continue to champion issues that are dear to the people, including raising a red flag over the mammoth reclamation project off Bayan Lepas.
PKR does not agree that reclamation is the only option to fund mega projects, where parcels of reclaimed land are awarded to the project concessionaire on a leasehold basis.
“Can’t we find another way to raise funds, something that does not unsettle the environment?” said the assemblyman.
He also said the state government could wait until the next general election as such a big project will take time to be implemented.
“Why the rush, as after all, Lim has drawn on the possibility that the (federal) opposition may win the general election owing to the severity of scandals inundating Umno?” said the assemblyman.
If Pakatan Harapan wins the next election, then there is no need to worry about funding as the allocation can come direct from the national coffers.
Weighing in, Penang Gerakan veteran Wong Mun Hoe said Lim seems to be playing his role well when voicing out on government mismanagement at the federal level but was found wanting in his own backyard.
Lim may have won accolades when he went after Prime Minister and Umno president Najib Razak on the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion donation issues, but Lim’s detractors said he was neglecting his job as the state’s chief executive.
Wong said Lim needed to devote more attention to governing Penang rather than behaving like an opposition icon.
“Lim needs to understand that there are issues in Penang which need his immediate attention. The days of passing the buck to the previous government or the federal government are gone,” he said.
Penangites are highly stressed by the rising living costs, traffic congestions, polarisation and threats to the environment, Wong added.
He said the people could no longer stomach excuses and just the people the voted in to lead them to “greener pastures”.
Lim should fully comprehend what it means to be in government, he said.
His predecessor Dr Koh Tsu Koon had once lobbied four times to get federal clearance for a RM5 million aid.
“Lim must understand that Penang is not the centre of the universe. There are other states which also require extra funding.
“There is time for politics and there is time to govern. I think for Penang, the onus is on developing the state,” Wong said.
And similar to the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan, Lim should find new ways to raise funds for flood mitigation.
He should also find fresh ways to ease the traffic congestion now instead of waiting for the master plan to be undertaken, Wong said.