From being UMNO lackeys and yes-men to condoning abuses of power and corruption, we are already know the inability of Gerakan leaders to move Penang forward. That is why, these lackeys were booted out in the last general election.
DAP and its top leader Lim Guan Eng achieved landslide victories despite not coming to Penang seeking to overthrow the BN state government. The party only offered to become an effective and substantial opposition.
Voters in Penang took the leap of faith but not without great expectations. It is fair to argue that they voted out BN but not really voted in the DAP/PR. At 4pm on election day, a few top DAP leaders were still not sure of doing well at the state level.
However, since DAP leades have accepted the responsibility and burden to govern this state they should try to turn this negative win into a positive win. A positive win is required for the party to seek a decisive reelection at the next general election. Granted, a term is too short for the new government to do transformational change. But we do expect the party to take a lead to transform Penang. We expect transformational leadership from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Hence, it is not too much for us to expect some vision and direction from his leadership. We are ready to support and even go along with some bold decisions and steps to help Penang become a leading example of good governance. Three immediate things come to mind which need immediate attention: cleanliness, public safety and economy.
Lim needs to make his vision to transform Penang clear. Clarity is important if he expects the people to support his vision and plans. To do so, he must be not be afraid of the old forces which will try to muzzle his efforts and make him follow the old framework. Already, there are some instances when decision makers in his team have to refer back to the old precedents fearing criticism from his foes.
We do not hire new people to do the same old things. No doubt, we could sense that the new administration is trying to be business friendly and at the same time demonstrate its financial prudence. The gleeful announcements of free wifi service, a possible new aerobus system and others which come at no cost to the government are some examples. However, soon the government will learn the hard fact that there is no free lunch in business.
The Kings of Tennis fiasco is what the government does not need. It should learn that over eagerness to do something for Penang can expose some management inexperience and weaknesses. Critics are right to point out that the local authority should not simply bend the rule to accommodate any event organiser. Preliminary background check is necessary. Business sense should also prevail when comes to financial viability of the project. Still, rules are rules. They are meant to be followed not break. What stops other organisers from asking for similar exemptions?
Since there is a heritage advisory panel in place, the state should get their views on events to be held within the heritage zone especially when it involves altering the landscape of the protected area. Tourism and heritage promotion is beyond an individual. It makes more sense for the state to build up collaborations among key stakeholders.
At the start of his administration, Lim has been quite generous with new appointments. Many of his partymen were elected to important sounding positions such as chief of staff, policy adviser, economic adviser, investment coordinator and others. The coming first anniversary of his government would be a good chance for him to evaluate the effectiveness of those occupying these positions. Positions are created to play specific roles and satisfy specific purposes.
Lim can choose between two possible routes. First, stay somewhat conservative and stick with his non-performing loyalists or second, enact changes which will help to strengthen his team and its ability to execute his vision and plans. He will need a real chief of staff who can help to keep him right on the track.
Too many event appearances, meetings and parliamentary responsibilities are going to keep him away from doing real thinking and strategizing for Penang. Lim is already having his plate full with duties and tasks to lead committees not from his portfolios. Without adequate attention and time, some of these committees cannot operate effectively. As a result, many volunteers may lose interest after a while.
Lim would need a real media adviser who can help to keep his message clear and consistent. Too much rantings about past abuses are going to wear off his public support and excitement. Surely, the mismanagement which caused the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) to lose RM225 million within five years is serious.
But Teng Hock Nan is right to point out that Lim could check with the relevant departments for the budget and expenditure details of MPSP and the Penang Island Municipal Council if he wanted to find out about the funds. Lim did not heckle Teng for answers but to run him down politically. A good media adviser will be able to point out to Lim how little mileage left from doing so.
There is still time for Lim to act and sound more chief ministerial. Lim did not run to become a chief minister. But more than 65% of voters in Penang thought that he and his team can be entrusted to do the job. What Lim and his team need to do is to start acting and sounding like a real government.
Alas, going back to become an effective opposition, a role they know best, is no longer an option.