Can the Penang state government direct the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) to implement the proposed Penang International Convention Centre?
On 30 November 2009, in response to an oral question in the Penang State Assembly by Pantai Jerejak member Sim Tze Tzin (PKR), Chow Kon Yeow, responding on behalf of the Chief Minister, replied that “in line with a state government directive, the MPPP had been directed to implement the construction of a convention centre at a site determined by the state government, that is, at the Penang International Sports Arena (Pisa) in Relau, Penang”.
He added that the proposal was in the planning stage, and the MPPP would decide if a traffic impact assessment was needed once it received a detailed proposal.
Is it within the power of the state government to issue such a directive to the MPPP?
Section 9 of the Local Government Act 1976 states:
ADMINISTRATION OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES
9. Power of State Authority to issue directions.
(1) The State Authority may from time to time give the local authority directions of a general character, and not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, on the policy to be followed in the exercise of the powers conferred and the duties imposed on the local authority by or under this Act in relation to matters which appear to the State Authority to affect the interests of the local authority area, and the local authority shall as soon as possible give effect to all such directions.
The operative words here are “directions of a general character” on policy matters. Now, the question here is, does a directive to implement a specific convention centre on a specific site determined by the state government amount to “directions of a general character” on policy matters?
One blog reader made the following observation:
The issue is not whether Penang needs a convention centre. The issue is:
(1) whether PICC is the business of MPPP to build and maintain. Obviously MPPP had done a bad job for Pisa and now it is being asked to shoulder another monument.
(2) where is the feasibility study and why is MPPP being pressured to build it in a hurry – to be completed by 2010, tender to be called in January?
(3) why no competition for design and why the reliance on the same architect who built Pisa?
(4) why the location? does everyone know that it will be located at the front entrance obstructing Pisa?
(5) will any exhibitors come to a RM 50 million convention centre (with no hotel, auditorium and inadequate parking) in congested Penang when there are much grander and better equipped convention centres in KL, Singapore, Bangkok?
(6) what will happen to Pisa during and after construction?
Let the private sector or state government build and run it. Don’t ask MPPP to spend ratepayers’ money in a hurry for this when all the above questions remain hanging in the air.