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Soi Lek heads PPC: Larger issue at stake

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Dr Chua Soi Lek’s appointment as chairman of the Penang Port Commission has generated much debate. But there is a larger issue at stake, says Anil Netto.

Photo credit: makkalosai.com.my

Already there has been much debate online about the appointment of Chua Soi Lek as the Penang Port Commission chairperson.

Penang Port Commission (PPC) was established on 1 January 1956 under the Penang Port Commission Act, 1955. PPC is a statutory body under the Transport Ministry tasked with providing, maintaining and upgrading port and ferry services in Penang Port.

Much of the online debate about Soi Lek’s appointment centres on the personalities and the political parties involved.

The larger issue that is missing from the debate is that almost all areas of importance are being controlled or overseen by the federal government in our highly centralised federal system: you name it – Penang port and ferry services, railways and highways, Penang Airport, Penang Bridge, Rapid Penang, sewerage system, electricity supply, general hospitals, government schools, the federal civil service.

There is more centralisation coming. The federal Water Asset Management Company (Wamco or PAAB) is eyeing control of water assets throughout the nation while the National Water Services Commission has been formed to regulate and oversee treated water services and sewerage services in Malaysia (except for Sabah and Sarawak). Local councils could lose control over solid waste disposal and ‘public cleansing’ services under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Act. The trend of centralisation continues.

At the end of the day, the state and local governments will be left with few powers and minuscule budgets to effect meaningful change. So while the people of Penang may have voted for Pakatan in the last general election, the state government has very little influence over the federal authorities, agencies and civil service as well as the GLCs and privatised firms that actually touch the ordinary people’s daily lives.

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The only way to allow state governments and local government more local powers, thus making them more relevant, is through a process of decentralisation and democratisation that would allow the the second and third tiers of government to play a bigger role. This process of decentralisation right up to village level is important to make them more accountable and responsive to local demands and expectations.

For this to happen, public awareness of the real situation and political change are necessary.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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12 Dec 2010 11.46am

Hi, i m not involve in any political but i m a penangnites which try to make penang my state that i m staying and the place that i born as i m proud to be a penangnites. But however i do not know what is the execution on it that take 4months for an easy thing which we follow accordingly. I feel that there is a lack of effieciency which i was DING DONG DING DONG over a project and delayed just to rent a place. After all i do not hope that any changes of the top person will not affected this my project to delay again. What my intention is to build a better Penang.

Ong Eu Soon
30 Nov 2010 11.34pm

Don’t complain about the centralization when the state government refuse to assume responsibility for solid waste management. I voiced out my concern over the overdependent of landfill as the only mean to solve our rubbish problem, some Pakatan leaders were quick to response with excuses that it is now the responsibility of the federal government under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Act. Politicians have no ideas what will happen when everything come under the purview of the federal government. They opt not to fight back when it s convenient for them to elude from public scrutiny. Take the case of Pulau Burung, a level 2 sanitary landfill, is allow to degrade without seriously looking into how to treat leachate with constructed wetland. The phase 1 of Pulau Burung is full and overloaded. Now the state government is using the land of Phase 2 to dump all our solid waste. Merely building a pond to contain leachate does not mean the leachate is being treated. Let me tell you what our politicians think. They are happy to be centralized as it mean that the problem belong… Read more »

2 Dec 2010 3.48pm
Reply to  Ong Eu Soon

Centralisation is already a fact of life. It is REALITY. It probably started aggressively during Mahathir’s regime, gathers steam over time and reaching its peak now as BN increasingly consolidates power at the Federal level as it loses control of the States. There is an ongoing tussle between Pakatan states and the Federal govt. I don’t agree with the comment that the Pakatan states are not doing anything or are not complaining. Here in Sgor where I live, we have, from the very beginning, launched a battle to regain the control of Water from Syabas starting with denying them a 38% rise in tariffs. Part of the actions will include a march to the Istana Negara this Sat to hand over a memorandum. Read all about the Battle for Sgor Water at http://www.airuntukrakyat.net/main/?mobj=001&mact=home&lid=1. In the LONG RUN, I agree with Anil that decentralisation is the answer. Obviously this can be achieved when Pakatan forms the next Fed Govt. PR has stated that the restoration of TRUE Federalism is one of their objectives.

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