Excessive federal powers alarm NGOs


How do excessive federal powers affect Penang and other states in Malaysia?

To understand some of the constraints that state governments, especially Pakatan-ruled states, are operating under, check out this report in theSun on the Penang Forum.

NGOs alarmed at excessive federal govt powers
Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (March 7, 2010): The impact of widespread federalism, or entrenched federal government powers in state affairs, is a serious concern that needs to be looked into, a forum to assess the Pakatan Rakyat’s two-year rule in Penang heard today.

Several NGO activists expressed concern over various matters in which the federal government exercised undue control, leaving the state authorities out of important local matters they should be handling.

Aliran secretary Dr Francis Loh pointed to agencies like the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), under the Prime Minister’s Department, which issues permits and regulates public transport like buses and taxis in the state, as well as the Penang Port whose officials are appointed by the finance and transport ministries.

He also noted that federal allocations under the 9th Malaysia Plan were being channelled to the State Development Office (SDO) under the Prime Minister’s Department, which does not report its funding and mechanisms to the state authorities.

“All funds are channelled to the SDO, not to the state. The Penang government has no say in this matter,” he said at the forum entitled ‘Penang: Has anything changed after two years?’ at the Caring Society Complex here.

Penang Island municipal councillor Lim Kah Cheng noted the federal government had authority over licensing and implementation of public cleaning projects.

Noting that such powers were given to the federal and not state authorities under the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Act approved by Parliament in 2007, she said she opposed any plans for a single company to be appointed by the federal government to oversee cleaning operations in the state.

Economist Lim Mah Hui noted that of Malaysia’s annual budget of RM207 billion, only RM0.45 billion was given to Penang although the state’s GDP of RM44 billion formed a sizeable amount of the national GDP of RM505 billion.

He also expressed apprehension that the state had limited land of its own to use, as only 12% of the Penang’s non-hilly terrain was under the state.

Concerns were also raised about programmes for conservation of the George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Site, with the state government failing to get necessary federal allocation to maintain and preserve the site.

Loh also said a think tank formed by Khazanah Nasional Bhd to vet and disburse some RM20 million for heritage programmes, obtained through a federal allocation, should be dismantled.

He said the allocation should be given to the state, as it was the authority accountable to the ratepayers. — theSun.

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Dr. Amrit Sekhon
Dr. Amrit Sekhon
10 Mar 2010 2.29pm

How do we solve such issues?
As for the NGOs,,,you definitely have been sleeping all these years or was it,,,living on hand outs from BN.

Anthony Tan
Anthony Tan
10 Mar 2010 2.23pm


Below is what I picked up what you have written to Anil’s blog.

“We hope the next time (Pakatan) cybertroopers have guts to use their real name instead of resorting to such cowardly tactics”.

You should practice what you preached, don’t hide behind … “K”. SHOW YOURSELF!

11 Mar 2010 1.34pm
Reply to  Anthony Tan

Anthony…did I ? What had you been smokin lately bro ?

9 Mar 2010 11.52pm

Sorry Anil,

I know this is out of line with your article, but, just for the knowledge of my friend Gerakan K, so that he will not be misguided to make inaccurate comments in the future.


Thanks and cheers!

10 Mar 2010 11.02am
Reply to  O

Dear O Thanks for highlighting this article here ! Just this morning me and my friends has a big laugh over this pathetic letter. I think it is your buddy “Rajan” (or was it you) who is misguided. There is no such person as Rajan Rajasamy. It is not even a real Indian name as every Indian knows. It is obviously (a Pakatan) non-Indian cybergoon masquarading as Indian. … Before the name used was Rajan Rajeswary…. We hope the next time (Pakatan) cybertroopers have guts to use their real name instead of resorting to such cowardly tactics. And I love… Read more »

9 Mar 2010 3.58pm

Oh wow ! What a surprise !

It’s 2010 and the NGO finally wakes up to the facts that had been there all along since the 1990s !

Wow ! It took the NGOs 20 years to finally say the right things.

Where were Aliran and other NGOs for the past 20-so years?

Those laws that enable the Federal government to encroach on State’s rights was enacted back when Mahathir was the PM.

Why there were not even one peep from the NGOs back when that was happening?

Why all the hoohaa after-the-fact?

10 Mar 2010 8.48am
Reply to  Anil Netto

Iron’s right. It is the NGOs been sleeping on the jobs as this has been going on for years. Chairman Lim and the his proxies in NGOs should stop crying and get to work. All state govts face the same problem and not just Penang. KTK also faced the same issue but he didn’t run to his mama and cry and threw a tantrum. Wake up lah, get on with the job. If you have unlimited funds to develop the state, then any moron can be successful. The secret of a great leadership is achieving success with limited resources. Tun… Read more »

10 Mar 2010 1.04pm
Reply to  K

I do not usually agree with K but this one I have to concur. Even if we got a monkey on the seat of the CM-ship, given unlimited amount of resources, even that damn monkey can be a wonderful CM. What Lim Chong Eu did (and I been through the period) was just that, he did a superbly wonderful job with EXTREME CONSTRAINS. Did Tun Lim cry father cry mother about having not enough money? Did Tun Lim lament this lament that about the sky-rocketing unemployment that hit Penang back in the ’60s? No ! Lim Chong Eu and his… Read more »

10 Mar 2010 9.51pm
Reply to  K

“All state govts face the same problem”

Untrue…inaccurate…Gerakan spin.

Only non-BN run states have development funds channeled through Jabatan Pembangunan Persekutuan, essentially locking out the State government from key development decisions.

BN run states have the funds channeled either through State governments or in conjuction with State governments.

The Federal government has been doing this to Kelantan for ages….but doing this to Selangor and Penang..two large contributors to Malaysia’s GDP is the height of stupidity. BN’s attempt to cold-fridge the PR governments in Selangor and Penang end up hurting Malaysia’s economy as a whole.

11 Mar 2010 1.40pm
Reply to  kittykat46

Kittykat46…aiyoh…pls lah do some investigation before you post lah. You confuse the wang ehsan mechanism with JPP lah. This mechanism was created to ensure the funds are distributed quickly and the projects are executed quickly. This was one of Badawi’s better ideas. And based on my experience this enabled govt projects to be implemented much more smoothly than being hindered by those infamous Napoleans. I know LGE would bitch about it but then all CMs/MBs face the same problem. So just get on with it lah. LGE is just hoping to get his grubby / greedy hands on the Federal… Read more »

9 Mar 2010 3.14pm

This is news to which ignorant NGO? Running a Penang govt is worst than working for the family business where the founders are still in charge. Its like the bastard child of the dead founder, cleaning toilet at the company factory, the 1st wife and children are running the business – and all you have is an old tooth brush to do it.

Phua Kai Lit
Phua Kai Lit
9 Mar 2010 2.52pm

Hmmm ….

This is the usual definition of “federalism”:

“A system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units”.

Examples of federalism include Australia, Canada, USA, India, Germany.

What we have in Malaysia is a distorted version of federalism with the federal government accumulating more and more power at the expense of the state governments. Not to mention failing to recognise some of the revenue-sharing agreements it has signed with some of the states (as Tengku Razaleigh rightly pointed out).