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Penang a key battlefield ahead of GE14, says Singapore daily

 | August 21, 2017

Singapore's Straits Times says both the opposition and the federal government are using Penang's fortunes as 'campaign fodder'.

lim-guan-eng-rahman-dahlan-pulau-pinang-1PETALING JAYA: Although it is the second smallest state in the country, Penang has become a key battlefield between the opposition and the federal government ahead of the 14th general election (GE14), according to a Singapore daily.

Pointing out that Penang is one of only three states controlled by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and not Barisan Nasional (BN), the Straits Times said it had been touted as a model for the opposition’s claim of “competency, accountability and transparency (CAT)” in governance.

Of all the 13 states, it also attracted the most investments for 2010 and 2011.

However, BN disputes the claims of success, alleging among others that Penang’s economy has lagged behind the national average ever since DAP took control in 2008.

“Both sides are now using Penang’s fortunes as campaign fodder for a general election due in a year,” the report said.

Penang and its chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, have often been the subject of attacks over claims that it is marginalising the Malays in the state.

In a separate report, the Straits Times said it was easy for Umno to “play the race card” as Penang has the highest percentage of Chinese in Malaysia at just under 40% of its 1.7 million population.

“Umno is using the loss of Penang to paint a scary picture of the future of Malays in Malaysia,” the daily said.

It pointed to accusations that Lim and his administration have ignored the plight of poor Malays and interfered in Islamic matters by allegedly removing the previous mufti and meddling in the issuance of fatwas.

Lim himself faces a graft trial for allegedly receiving a discount on a RM2.8 million bungalow in exchange for granting land re-zoning approval.

Several months ago, his party DAP was also beset by challenges over the issue of de-registration.

The DAP-led state government says Penang’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth has improved from being the lowest in Malaysia 10 years ago at 5.9% to the highest in 2015 at 6.4% – nearly twice the 3.3% recorded by the country, according to the report.

Lim also pointed out that Penang had always eventually recorded a surplus in budget, leading to reserves of RM1.8 billion which is the highest in the state’s history.

However, BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan alleged that Penang had sold or traded away RM37 billion in land and assets to fund fiscal spending five times higher than the last budget tabled by Lim’s predecessor, the daily said.

It also said Umno had constantly played up the loss of Malay villages to new developments despite Penang’s statement that the villagers must be fairly compensated.

However, Lim appears unfazed by the attacks, telling the daily he did not want to “waste time” with “all these irrelevant fellows”.


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