Two representatives of Penang Forum, Dr Lim Mah Hui and Dr Tiun Ling Ta have been retained as councillors of MPPP and MPSP respectively.
Penang Forum is a network of about a dozen prominent civil society groups in Penang.
Two other activists nominated by Penang Forum to represent civil society interests in the MPSP, the municipal council on mainland Penang, were not appointed. Instead, two other councillors tagged as “NGO” were appointed.
Over on the island, in addition to Mah Hui, three other “NGO” councillors were appointed to the MPPP, the Penang Island city council. (One of them is believed to be from a Chamber of Commerce.)
Are these five other NGO councillors non-partisan or representing the public interest? Which NGOs do they represent? Inquiring minds want to know.
Among the party appointees, newcomer Syerleena Abdul Rashid, a prolific commentator, is one to watch for the future.
While more could be done to increase civil society representation in the local councils, we should continue the campaign to call for the restoration of local council elections throughout the nation. This is important if the local council is to be accountable and responsive to the people’s interest as opposed to vested or corporate interests.
The state faces major urban planning issues. Incredible as it may seem, the Penang Island Local Plan, approved in 2007 under the previous administration and then again in 2008 by the present administration, has not yet been gazetted.
A Local Plan provides detailed information about what type of development and the density allowed at the neighbourhood level. So, without a local plan now, it is almost like a “free for all” in planning terms. This is a crying shame, whichever way you look at it. The old excuses for not having a local plan in force don’t hold water anymore.
As for the broader Penang Structure Plan (2005-2020), huge controversies have erupted in Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bunga. These two areas are regarded in the Plan as secondary development corridors (at least in the text of the Structure Plan), but they are now witnessing property development plans more akin to those found in higher density primary development corridors.
What’s the point of being a ‘city’ when we don’t have credible and proper planning?