The sacking of two PKR state assembly members, Bukit Tengah rep Ong Chin Wen (the PKR state whip) and Kebun Bunga rep Cheah Kah Peng, as directors of Penang state government-linked companies is disturbing.
The two were among five PKR state assembly members who had abstained from voting on an Umno-sponsored motion opposing the Pakatan state government’s plan for massive land reclamation in southern Penang Island.
Chin Wen was removed as director of InvestPenang and Island Golf Properties Bhd, a subsidiary of Penang Development Corporation, while Kah Peng was dropped as director of the Penang Hill Corporation.
Last I heard, the Penang state government is mainly a DAP-PKR coalition government.
It is a fallacy to compare the state government to a company by saying that all the directors must have the confidence of a GLC chairman, who comes from one of the two main political parties.
A company may have different main shareholders, who may be represented in the board of directors to represent the interests of the respective shareholders. There could even be independent directors. The chairman cannot simply sack those directors representing other shareholders.
Similarly, a GLC of a coalition government should reflect the interests of the various players in the state government, elected by the people. Directors of GLCs are not there to kowtow to the GLC chairman, who does not own the company himself. Neither does his party own the GLC. Directors are there to represent the interests of the public. And PKR is part of the state government.
The PKR reps who abstained from voting against the Umno motion opposing the land reclamation were reflecting significant public concerns about the mega land reclamation and the way the swap deal has been arranged.
The swap deal/land reclamation does not have 100 per cent backing from the public, as evidenced by the large protest by fisher folk in southern Penang Island; so there is nothing wrong for any of the state assembly reps to abstain or vote against such a mega project.
Moreover, how does the stand of the PKR reps on land reclamation affect their jobs in those two unrelated GLCs?
“It is nothing political,” said a PKR source, who declined to be identified, of their stand. “PKR as a party is concerned about the environment, and so are many young people today. The sheer scale of the land reclamation – over 4,000 acres – has left many feeling uneasy.”
He added people today want more mature political leaders who are willing to accept different or dissenting views, including those from backbenchers. He pointed out that in the federal parliament, people had hoped that BN MPs would break party ranks and vote against bills that were oppressive or against the public interest (though that has rarely happened).
Penang PKR ranks are believed to be disturbed by the sackings, and the party’s weekly meeting yesterday lasted much longer than usual.
Big bucks are riding on the massive land reclamation in Penang which will profit property developers and infrastructure giants. But does not mean dissenting elected reps should be penalised for their stand in the state assembly – a stand which reflects significant public concern, even if those views may be in the minority. Especially given that this is a DAP-PKR coalition government.
Surely we don’t want an administration filled only with yes men and women and those who are too afraid to speak up and articulate public concerns. We have had enough of that under BN rule.