Yes, Penang needs an effective and constructive opposition just like the Parliament and other state assemblies for effective check-and-balance purposes. No, the present group of Umno assemblymen do not provide us with a reliable and effective opposition.
Why? They are either too Malay centric or ill equipped/lack of knowledge to debate in the house. Moreover, sending thugs and hooligans to disrupt assemblies is not something which are going to help them win over the middle ground. Umno leaders were not ready to become opposition members in 2008, they were ready to form a government with Gerakan, MCA and MIC.
I can understand people's frustration with pushy and abrasive Umno leaders in a Gerakan-led state government since 1990. We do not even have to repeat the nickname ex-CM Tsu Koon was given.
My friend, the present CM, is not going to be happy with me for endorsing and calling for an effective and constructive opposition in the Penang state assembly. Do not misunderstood me, Guan Eng is a good and passionate leader. One has to be passionate enough to make a comeback after serving an 18-month jail sentence for speaking up against a child sexual abuse case.
I guess Guan Eng would have to accept me the way I am. I would like to be a friend who would let him know when he strays and support him when he is wrongly persecuted or criticized. A quick check on my blog history would reveal on many occasions I had stood up for him.
Undoubtedly, there is a need of an effective and constructive opposition to ensure government of the day stays alert and focuses on its role in serving the people.
Too strong a government may get carried away with many executive decisions including some which may eventually bring more harm than good to the people.
I still hope that Guan Eng would put up his executive decision to build 4 mega infrastructure projects including an underwater tunnel linking Bagan Ajam to Gurney Drive for public consultation and referendum. I hope he does not take the standing support he got for the underwater tunnel at the Dap fund raising dinner as a final indication of support from the people.
There are two reasons for him to consider; first, the construction cost of the four highways (suggested as RM8 billion) is too exorbitant for the state to shoulder. The state government has indicated that it is going to fund the projects through land swap. There is no indication which part of state owned land banks would be swapped for the deals.
Has the state government study the impact of these projects on the environment, its effectiveness to address intracity congestion, rising property prices if more lands are going to fall in the hands of private developers and other social impact.
Second, should the state government spend so much resources to focus on the mobility of those with private vehicles instead of looking at ways to provide state-run public bus system? Guan Eng said public transport is not under his jurisdiction and he cannot do anything until he wins the federal government.
My question is what the federal government can do to his government for providing a service to hundreds of thousands who cannot afford to own a car? Let them come after you and we will defend your decision with our votes and support!
Tourism in the state would have to be supported by a good public transport system. Building more highways is not consistent with the "Greener Penang" project which is essentially hoping to take more private vehicles off the road. I supported his "no car" day around the Beach Street area. So, can we hope for some consistency here?
Any transport planner worth his/her salt should be able to tell us that building more highways is not a permanent solution to solving traffic congestion and bottleneck. We need someone to debate and engage the state government on this plan.
I have demonstrated the need of a reliable, effective and constructive opposition because who in the state government is going to listen to ordinary people like us? It is a fact that a politician only listens and rebuts another politician.
I believe an effective opposition is going to bring out the best in Guan Eng. We have yet to see the best in him. A strong, authoritative and charismatic leader like him needs good a debate and discourse to bring out the best in him. Wholesale accolades, praises and support is going to make him complacent and unwilling to listen to alternative views. So, if you love Guan Eng, let him know when he is wrong. If he is not listening, shout!
However, I don't think Gerakan's Wong Mun Hoe and his colleagues plead with the people to give Gerakan candidates a chance to become an effective opposition voice is not going to move any sympathy. He is right to note that the people are still angry with Umno/Barisan.
Hence, if he is serious about being an effective opposition voice in the state assembly he should be willing to distance his party from the destructive Umno. However, Umno is still influential among the Malay voters in Penang.
Gerakan candidates must be willing to form a Third Force in Penang. Wong and his colleagues must provide constructive and effective opposition voice to the people to help check-and balance the government. At the moment, it does not help if Gerakan is seen as being subservient to Umno.
Many of us do not care much if Umno's representation in the state assembly is much eroded. Yes, vote some of them out if you can. But we want an effective and constructive opposition to help ensure that the state government stands on its toes at all times.
Do Wong and any of his colleagues dare to take the challenge?