Friday, November 30, 2012

Taman Manggis Fiasco

I had urged both the DAP led Penang state government and the Penang Barisan Nasional not to politicize the Taman Manggis land. Taman Manggis, a small 1.1 acre plot of land previously earmarked for low cost housing was originally sold to the Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre to build and operate a private hospital. 

Penang BN had accused the state government for selling below the market price. Political secretary to the Chief Minister Ng Wei Aik sent an offer letter to the Penang BN to sell the land for RM22 million. 

Penang BN representative Oh Tong Keong and his delegation went to the state administrative office to pay a 1% booking fee and he was given a month to settle the rest of the amount. The period was extended to 3 months after much hue and cry over the S&P completion period.

The state government was accused of selling a land it does not own since KLID had pledged the land to a financial institution. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng insisted that the state government is still the rightful owner of the land. His office has circulated a letter from KLID purportedly allowing the state government to sell the land to another party as long as the state government agrees to defray their cost and legal expenses. 

On the Penang BN side, the matter took another embarrassing twist after Khoo Boo Soon, director of Taman Manggis Phase II Development said that the company was a private entity and not interested in playing politics.

His statement was in major conflict with the state BN's campaign to acquire the land for public housing.

Khoo has indicated that his company intends to price the units at approximately RM400 per sqft; putting the units beyond the reach of most low income families in the state. With a limit of 87 units per acre fixed by the local authority, the project is not expected to achieve anything more than 90 units. 

Khoo was ticked off by Penang BN chief Teng Chang Yeow who insisted that Khoo is not authorized to decide on the type of housing to be constructed.

The whole episode is a mess for politicians from both sides of the divide. 

Again, Teng is barking at the wrong tree. He is still disputing whether the state government or KLID is the actual seller. Does it matter? The most important thing is there is an interested seller at RM22 million for the 1.1 acre land. If the financial backers pull out, it is going to be huge embarrassment for Teng and Penang BN.

On the other hand, it appears to me that the DAP led government is more concerned about scoring political points than securing the interest of the people. The government should have retracted the sale once it is evident that KLID has failed to obtain an approval to set up a private hospital. The land is reserved for low cost housing. 

It is ridiculous to suggest that low income earners should not be allowed to stay in the city centre. It is crude and irresponsible to suggest that low cost housing scheme may turn the city centre into a slum and drag down real estate value around the area. 

Taman Manggis should not be used as a battle zone for both Pakatan and BN. They should take their battles to the ballot boxes. 

Perhaps it would be better for the challenger Teng Chang Yeow to face the incumbent CM Lim Guan Eng in a public debate on who has a better plan and vision for Penang. It would be more productive than getting entangled in the Taman Maggis fiasco.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Chua Tee Yong Helping or Hurting His Own Political Career?

There is no need for the federal government to issue a white paper on the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, says Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Chua Tee Yong.

NONEProsecuting those involved was better than producing a white paper, Chua told a press conference at the MCA headquarters today.

“We have taken the issue to court, which is better than issuing a white paper because the court will rectify the things,” he said.

Earlier, he was pushing for a white paper on Talam Corp debt restructuring exercise. 

Does Chua really understand the importance of a white paper? A white paper is a comprehensive, objective and credible report on an issue and help to propose the best solution to resolve a problem. 

In the case of NFC, the court merely delivers verdict on the accused. It does not help to provide a solution to recover the debt, to improve government's oversight mechanism and to restore a lack of governance. It is a duty for Chua and his ministry's to explain and to find a solution to the problem.

In his statement, it appears that Chua is harping on a different set of standards for Pakatan but refuses to follow what he preaches. By doing so, he is definitely not doing the right thing to help his own political career. Credibility comes from being consistent and principled. 

Chua is silent on allegations that his party was allocated cheap land by the past BN led Selangor state government. According to Pakatan's Ng Suee Lim, the land was "sold" as RM1 per sqft to BN component parties including MCA which was allocated three pieces of land. 

Perhaps it is time for Chua to understand the merit of being consistent and credible. Leaders must be both consistent and credible to command respect and support from the public.

Chua should still take up the challenge to debate DAP's Tony Pua on the Talam issue. It might help to redeem his political career if he performs credibly in the debate.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Malaysia Votes 13th GE: Why You Should Support Nurul Izzah?

Politicians are known to be chameleons and most of them would tailor make their statements according to their audience. Not for Nurul Izzah, an emerging force within the party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which was founded to fight against Anwar Ibrahim's persecution. 

At a forum on "Islamic State: Which version; Who's responsibility?", she was reported to have said "People should not be compelled to adopt a particular religion and this should also apply to Malays."

"When you ask me, there is no compulsion in religion... how can anyone say sorry, this (religious freedom) only applies to non-Malays, it has to apply equally." she said. 

She was responding to a question from the floor on whether Malays should have religious freedom like non-Malays. 

"Malay" is defined under Section 160(2) of the federal constitution as a person who professes Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language and conforms to Malay customs.

Ultimately, she said, what should be sought is "quality" where Muslims' faith is strong.

"Even me, being schooled in Assunta (secondary school) with a huge cross in the hall and an active singing Catholic society did not influence me," she said.

However, Nurul Izzah stopped short of saying that Malays should be legally granted religious freedom, saying: "I am, of course, tied to the prevailing views."

The position she espouses is unprecedented especially when she is a Muslim and she needs the support of largely Muslim voters in her constituency.  She is probably facing one of the toughest political fights in her short political life against a much more established candidate, a federal minister, who has much more resources than what she could have mustered before the next GE.

We need a leader a leader who speaks from her own conscience as a democrat and a proponent of universal human rights. She sees a bigger picture than most leaders who would adopt a narrow religious interpretation which can be manipulated for their own political benefit.

Nurul did not attempt any of these cheap political stunts. She speaks up as a democrat, a true Muslim who holds firmly to her faith and a leader who reaches out to soothe the fear of her fellow Muslims against an often manipulated sense of inferiority and threats against their faith.

For this, Straight Talk would like to urge voters in her constituency, Lembah Pantai, to return her moderate voice and outstanding leadership to the 13th Malaysian Parliament. 

If you would like to make contribution to her campaign fund:

Acc. Name: Ahli Parlimen Lembah Pantai
A/C No: 564128345008
Maybank - Bangsar Baru