PKR secretary general Saifuddin Nasution’s appointment as the Penang chief minister’s strategic adviser has raised eyebrows among certain quarters.
To some observers, the appointment of the PKR secretary general as the strategic adviser of the chief minister, who is DAP secretary general, sounds a bit awkward. Would the reverse take place?
A Penang state government leader says the appointment will strengthen ties between the two parties. But segments within Penang PKR are understood to be puzzled and uncertain over the objectives of the appointment.
With Penang Umno seemingly subdued on a number of state development policies and with a dearth of vocal critics in the state, Penang PKR has often stepped up to highlight issues of concern. For instance, PKR reps have been vocal over controversial issues such as the Penang transport masterplan proposals and environmental issues such as Botak Hill and extensive land reclamation.
Saifuddin’s appointment comes at a crucial juncture for the state, and he will have to quickly familiarise himself with the far-reaching implications of a couple of major developments.
First, the state government is on the verge of signing a project delivery partner agreement with SRS Consortium, which has proposed controversial transport infrastructure worth RM46bn.
And second, the state government is in the process of revamping the Penang Structure Plan, which is the blueprint for development policies and planning in the state.
In the past, the national-level PKR allowed leeway for their Penang PKR leaders to raise issues of local concern. This has allowed local PKR state reps to take up issues of concern to their constituents in the Penang State Assembly. Some of these issues have occasionally led to differences of opinion with the DAP leadership in Penang. This is healthy local democracy at work.
It remains to be seen how Saifuddin would handle such conflicts or strong differences of opinion between the two parties, if they arise, in his advice to the chief minister while at the same time protecting the role Penang PKR has played as part of the system of checks and balances in the state government.
It is going to be a tricky balancing act for the PKR secretary general, and observers will be closely watching to see how he handles this delicate dual role.