Ahmad Ismail's appointment as Penang Municipal Super Councillor who has shown that he has powers to override the Chief Minister is not healthy for good urban governance in Penang

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Thursday): In my speech at the DAP dialogue on the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project at Cheah Association on 2nd June last year, I expressed dismay that the Penang State Government seemed to have reduced itself into an agent or servant of the PORR concessionaire Peninsular Metroworks Sdn. Bhd (PMWSB) in a project which violates the principles of good urban governance such as viability, public participation, transparency and accountability.

This process has been taken to a further extremity when the PMWSB executive chairman, Datuk Ahmad Ismail, who is also Bukit Bendera UMNO division chairman, was appointed by the Penang State Government despite widespread public criticism and sworn in as Penang municipal councillor.

After his swearing-in on Tuesday, Ahmad rapped quarters that questioned his appointment because of his involvement in PORR, claiming that it was unfair to stop someone from holding a municipal councillor's post just because he is a politician-cum-businessman. He said that when a matter of PORR comes up for deliberation in the municipal council, he would declare his interests at the outset and leave the meeting.

This is not satisfactory enough and the critics of Ahmad's appointment are right in their objections.

This is because Ahmad is no ordinary businessman or ordinary politician-cum-businessman.

No ordinary businessman would be able to make the State government virtually his agent or servant as in the PORR project.

No ordinary businessman would be able to make the Penang Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr. Hilmi Yahaya to say inside and outside the Penang State Assembly that the credibility of PMWSB should not be questioned even though some of its shareholders had previously been declared bankrupt, as "they were relieved of bankruptcy now .and there were many other capable directors on the company's board" (Star 25.5.02) - without identifying who were these "previous" bankrupt shareholders and the "capable" directors, as well as ignoring the long list of failed privatization mega-projects in the country, where taxpayers have to bail out not only these failed projects but also to finance the ostentatious life-styles of the "lucky" individuals.

No ordinary businessman could without public notice or tender be awarded the PORR concession with unprecedented bounties of 30-year toll rights, 31 ha of prime State land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive - estimated to worth some RM5 billion!

If Ahmad can have his way with the Penang State Government in the PORR project because of his Federal government connections, can't he have his way in the Penang Municipal Council with his appointment as a Councillor?

Ahmad Ismail will be no ordinary Penang Municipal Councillor. He will be the first Penang Municipal Super Councillor who has demonstrated that he has powers to override the Penang Chief Minister as in the PORR project.

This is not healthy for good urban governance in Penang


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman