OCT 2, 2009 — Just as the contentious issue of Kampung Buah Pala has more or less died down, the issue involving the Malay kampung of Tanjong Tokong is now threatening to cause another round of sleepless nights for Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his deputy Mansor Othman and, to a certain extent, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The political ramification of the Kampung Buah Pala issue has been a pain in the neck for Lim and the state government as DAP and Pakatan Rakyat capitalised on the issue to good effect in the 2008 general election, attacking Barisan Nasional for not standing up for the people in facing the commercially-driven and profit-oriented developers.
After capturing the state, DAP and its Pakatan component members realised that it was not simply an open-and-shut case that can be settled without any implications, financially and legally, in relation to the approval given to the land owner and the development of the area.
The incoming Pakatan state governments of Penang, Selangor, Kedah and once upon a time Perak ill-thought promises of correcting the wrongs done by BN have came back to haunt them as it is evident that promises are easier made than to be realised.
Lim has had to swallow bitter pill as he was unable to play the role of the people's champion which he usually enjoys when he was the free spirit gung-ho oppositionist.
The Pakatan state government has also had to defend itself from accusations of not upholding the rights of the people.
To make things worse, previous allies like Hindraf are now at the forefront of accusing the DAP-led state government of mistreating the disfranchised Indians.
Penang's DCM II Prof P. Ramasamy was given an earful of abuse by the Hindraf leaders for not doing enough for the cause of the Indians. Some of the charges accused the state government of racial discrimination.
Not to be outdone, calls of a “new formula” or rotation of the chief ministership by fringe PKR leader and those wanting to promote themselves as champions of the Malay community have added salt to the sometimes fractious partnership between DAP and PKR.
This came at the behest of the anger by PKR's MPSP councillor on the appointment of a civil servant as the MPSP's president rather than someone nominated by PKR.
The issue of rotating the chief ministership mimics the political one-upsmanship of the previous state government under BN. Previously, Penang Umno had time and again demanded for the chief ministership to be handed over to it rather than being awarded to Gerakan, accusing the Gerakan-led state government of doing little to uplift the status of the Malay community.
Hence, if the rotation calls are true and not merely the overplay by the BN-manipulated media, it will have an impact to the people that there seems to be no difference between the previous and current state government.
One interesting question that comes to mind is that if the biggest party is accorded the post of the chief executive of the state then why has there not been proactive and committed work on the ground to win over not just the Malays as well as other communities in order to become the biggest party and lay a more realistic and rightful claim to the post.
Cheap political mileage like the one we are seeing in Penang bears resemblance to the ruckus that Selangor state exco Datuk Hasan Ali has tried to concoct with his antics of downgrading the same government that he is a part of.
The displacement of the majority Malay community in Tanjong Tokong must be treated as more than just a Malay issue as the solution should be considered from a human rather than a racial perspective.
The plight affecting residents of Tanjong Tokong just like in Kampung Buah Pala or even the new villages in Perak and Selangor are real issues that are affecting disfranchised people and little will be achieved if they are tackled as a race-based problems.
There ought to be a clear departure from the excessive politicking that is the hallmark of the previous government to new politics that is honest and represents hope for the people.
At the same time, governance requires leadership and the courage as well as the political will to do the right thing, ethically and morally not just politically.
After all, people will judge politicians by their act of governing and providing solutions for the welfare of the people rather than polemics and manoeuvres that mean little except for good political trash news.
Whilst Anwar is pushing for a solid and united Pakatan, wayward attempts to destabilise his effort must be kept in line and whipped to ensure the people remain hopeful of change and not disillusioned by similarities to the old regime.
- published in The Malaysian Insider : Oct 2, 2009