Penang UMNO Chairman Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman defended Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s suggestion to turn Penang into a Federal Territory, is aimed at turning the state into a tax haven. Penang UMNO’s refusal to condemn Tengku Adnan’s proposal has given added urgency to the continuation and the resistance of this proposal, through the “I Love Penang” campaign to secure the future of Penang as a sovereign state in Malaysia under the Malaysian Federal Constitution.
Zainal’s rationale of needing Penang to be a Federal Territory so that Penang can be converted into a tax haven is dishonest because this was never previously mentioned by Tengku Adnan. Furthermore, Penang does not need to be a Federal Territory to be a tax haven. Penang enjoyed free port status, and even Iskandar in Johor enjoyed tax haven status, without being turned into a Federal Territory. Lest BN forgets, it was BN who sold out the rights of Penang in the 1970s by abolishing Penang’s free port status. BN can return us the free port or grant us the tax haven status without turning Penang into a Federal Territory. Why have they not done so now?
Zainal added that Tengku Adnan’s views should be welcomed because he has good intentions, he means well and does not intend any harm against Penang. This is the clearest indication that if BN wins Penang in the next general elections, UMNO would push for Penang to be turned into a Federal Territory. Zainal admits that apart from amending the Federal Constitution and gaining the consent of the Conference of Rulers, all that is needed is for the state government to agree for Penang to become a Federal Territory. That is why Penang needs to be saved from BN and UMNO.
The people of Penang strongly opposes turning Penang into a Federal Territory because we will be denied our full constitutional and democratic rights to choose our own state government to decide on local matters. Instead of State Assemblypersons, EXCOs and a Chief Minister who stays in Penang, decisions about Penang will be decided by fiat without any democratic accountability by some Minister living in Putrajaya, who has no understanding or interest in local Penang issues. There will also be no local concillors. More importantly there will be no Penang Governor!
1.6 million Penangites have the right to fear that turning Penang into a Federal Territory will mean a return to the bad old days of BN’s misrule when Penang was dirty, not green, neither safe nor healthy. Penangites have not forgotten the misgovernance of BN, as compared to the present government, whose CAT administration of Competency Accountability and Transparency has been praised not only by the yearly Auditor-General’s Reports but also by Transparency International.
BN Poses A Clear And Present Danger To The Continued Existence Of Penang
CAT administration has recorded annual budget surpluses of RM574 million over 8 years since 2008 as compared to RM373 million over 50 years(1957-2007), doubling of cash reserves in 8 years to RM1.6 billion, what it took 50 years for BN to achieve as well as a reduction of state government debts by 90%. This “anti-corruption dividend” has allowed Penangites to benefit from cash payments and increased allocations for building public infrastructure and human talent.
Since 2008, more than RM412 million has been paid out in direct cash contributions to 1.6 million Penangites to senior citizens, housewives, single mothers, new-born babies, students, the disabled, university student, taxi drivers, school-bus drivers, trishaw pullers and the hard-core poor. Our vernacular and religious schools are given cash aid and land. All this will be put at risk when Penang is ruled by a Minister not living in Penang but in Putrajaya.
What about the promotion, protection and preservation of our UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town or Penang’s successes as a tourist destination of choice as seen by CNN listing of the top 17 best places to visit in the world, when Penang came out No.2? What will happen then to the 100% exemption of paying local assessment rates for low-cost, low-medium cost and kampong houses, 6% discount for assessment of other properites and absorption of paying the 6% GST by Penang Island City Council and Seberang Perai Municipal Council? After all, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur does not give such exemptions or discounts for assessment rates nor absorption of GST!
There is also concern that Penang will be riddled with corruption like the 1MDB RM52 billion scandal and the USD1 billion donation scandal when Putrajaya directly rules Penang. 1MDB’s controversial purchase of 234 acres of land in Air Itam for RM1.3 billion, without securing 100% ownership, will no longer be frozen and the land sold without due regard to the more than 3,000 squatter families there.
The Pakatan Penang state government is not overreacting to Tengku Adnan’s proposal but sees it as a clear and present danger to the continued existence of Penang. Worse, Zainal says that the proposal was to turn the island into a Federal Territory, leaving the mainland untouched, which effectively splits up the state. For this splittist suggestion not to be condemned by a Penangite like Zainal, shows that BN leaders do not have the best interests of Penang at heart, but is willing to give up everything for the perks and privileges of office.
The Penang state government will persist to resist this threat by BN, with our “I love Penang” campaign to warn Penangites of the clear and present danger posed by BN to Penang’s continued existence.