This is the first time in the party's history that there will be a chief minister, state assembly speaker, state excos, municipal councilors, datuks and other important personalities among its delegates. The party's membership has increased by leaps and bounds.
Party secretary general, who is the chief minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng expressed hope that the delegates will focus on the achievements of Pakatan, especially after governing four states following the 2008 general elections.
Apart from highlighting Pakatan's achievements, I hope Dap and Lim will take this opportunity to lay down their vision for the next term too especially for the Dap led Penang state government. The party is expected to be elected for another term by voters. However, it is unsure if the coalition can repeat its 2/3 majority.
Lim has done an admirable job in cleaning up the streets and make Penang a better place to visit/live in the last 2-3 years. He has been distributing annual handouts and subsidies to a cross sections of Penangites. He has added extra dynamism and energy into the state administration. This is evident in his high popularity in the state.
However, the added enthusiasm and energy have not been their without issues and challenges. He was embroiled in a series of spats with Barisan Nasional leaders and supporters. Land issues e.g. Taman Manggis, Bayan Mutiara, hill side development, Penang port land lease etc. are docking headlines for the past few months. The most controversial is the party's apparent economic policy of using land swap and sale to fund public projects and development. How sustainable can this policy be for a land scarce state such as Penang?
Lim has done well in managing some of these issues but has been quite hasty to score easy political points in some e.g. the Taman Manggis issue which has resulted in unnecessary politicization of state land reserved for low cost housing.
I had posed several pertinent questions with regards to the Bayan Mutiara land sale but I was attacked by his political secretary for being "obsessed" with Dap and Lim Guan Eng. Ironically, I was quite close to some of the Dap leaders including Lim.
Let this be a good lesson for aspiring leaders in the party who want to fill up higher positions in the federal government later. It is not easy to take up a public office. The peril for taking up a public office is the need to be answerable and accountable for every public policy or fiscal decision.
I hope Lim and other core Dap leaders will spend some valuable time to provide us with some understanding on their plans for next term. Some of the areas would be:
- How do they intend to lead the state government of Penang for the next five years?
- What is the next key success factors for the Penang economy?
- How can they grow/attract investment and create jobs in the next five years?
- What is the state's plan and agenda for the George Town heritage status and preservation?
- What role can the party play in the federal government? How would Pakatan lead differently?
- If Pakatan win the federal government, how much autonomy through decentralization that state governments would get? Increase in allocations?
- Can Dap assure us that Bayan Mutiara will be a success?
- What's Dap's regional foreign policy? How can Penang and Malaysia reap benefits from the opening up of economic opportunities in Asean?
- What can be done to improve the current political culture? What's Dap's or Pakatan education policy?
- How can Dap or Pakatan do to improve the coalition's common understanding so the issues confronting Pas can be dealt with efficiently?
The party should not follow UMNO's footsteps in conducting their recent general assembly: plenty of noise but little substance.
Dap must prove that it can do as well as it can preach and walk its talk.