Few are aware that the Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce (DPMMPP) has had three current office bearers successively appointed to an allotted seat in the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) since 2008.
Ironically, a DPMMPP leader was involved in the racially charged 5 Feb protest over allegedly discriminatory Council enforcement action against Malay hawkers and food-stalls operators on Penang Island.
The Penang government had allotted one seat to the DPMMPP and another to the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce in the MPPP. For 2008, the DPMMPP rep in the Council was Rizal Faris Mohideen, currently the head of DPMMPP. (Rizal was one of the speakers at the protest on Friday.) His successor as MPPP councillor in March 2009 was Yasir Hafiz Munawar Ali, currently the DPMMPP honorary assistant secretary. The present rep in the Council is Ali Akhbar Mohd Noor, a businessman and DPMMPP exco member.
It is within the jurisdiction of MPPP councillors to decide whether to grant “illegal traders” a moratorium or to enforce strictly or to determine which areas or categories comes first. A councillor may call up the enforcement officers and take them to task if they deviate from policy decisions but he or she cannot interfere once the committee-in-charge such as the permanent committee on public health and licensing has made a decision.
An MPPP councillor has the opportunity of highlighting the hawkers and food-stall operators’ cause within the MPPP. He or she can ask for statistics, which the MPPP should provide to clear the air or to disprove allegations, and question the figures. This would thus seem to be the obvious platform for the DPMMPP to raise such issues with the MPPP.
Rizal was reported as challenging the statistics issued by the state government. “As the state government, they can claim anything and lie as they are desperate to cover up their action. I have statistics from MPPP which show otherwise. Unless the state government has plagiarised the statistics to cover their tracks,” he was quoted in The Edge as saying.
He added that he had raised the matter numerous times but was accused of being a racist. “I had even proposed an action plan or an integrated approach to deal with the situation as Penang is a tourist destination and food haven, which could be affected by the enforcement taken against these hawkers.”
The question is, have the DPMMPP reps in the MPPP raised this issue loudly and persistently within the Council? It would be quite easy to check by looking up the minutes of meetings and memorandums submitted to the Council while they were reps.
Has the action plan Rizal mentioned been tabled in the MPPP or was it opposed by the other MPPP councillors? Who within the MPPP is blocking the councillors from adopting this integrated approach? I would be all for an integrated approach that would satisfy the various aspects such as regulation, hygiene, clean, conducive locations, the promotion of Penang as a food haven, the promotion of small local businesses, skills development, microcredit and job creation. It would be interesting to find out who in the MPPP is standing in the way of such an integrated and multi-ethnic approach – that is if it was actually brought up in the first place.
Do the DBMMPP reps really have no alternative avenue left that they have to highlight this as a racial issue on the streets?