Penang passes two-term limit for chief minister

Pakatan Harapan reps at the assembly holding up the Constitution of Penang (Amendment) 2018 Bill at the end of the state assembly. Also in the picture is Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is also Air Putih assemblyman.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang assembly today passed an amendment to the state’s constitution to limit the chief ministership to two terms, claiming it was the first to do so in the country.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) tabled a bill to that effect and this was seconded by his deputy, Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman (PKR-Pinang Tunggal).

The Penang state constitution came into effect on Aug 30, 1957, and has been amended 18 times, with the last one made in 2012, involving an anti-party-hopping law for assembly members.

Today’s amendment will see Article 7, Clause 2, paragraph (a) of the constitution including a line that reads “a member of the assembly who has never held a chief minister’s post for two terms”.

The bill was passed with a two-thirds majority, with 33 votes in favour, with only three opposition members from BN and PAS abstaining from voting. Four Pakatan Harapan assembly members were absent with notice.

Chow, while proposing the bill, said the term limit was put in place to ensure a check-and-balance in the government and also to fulfil a promise made by Penang Pakatan Harapan in its election manifesto.

He said the term limit would also prevent abuse of power and ensure the leadership is rejuvenated from time to time.

“The Penang government will make history by becoming the first state in Malaysia to ratify a term limit for the CM. Penang leads, once again,” he said.

Historic move to ensure good governance

During the debate stage, Gooi Hsiao Leung (PKR-Bukit Tengah) said the bill was historic.

He said this move will pave the way for other state assemblies in the country to follow suit to prevent power abuse and ensure good governance.

“Now, those who become the Penang CM will have a limited time to ensure their work is done.

“This way, there will be no dictators overstaying their welcome.

“Chow became CM just six months ago. He has done the honourable thing; it is admirable.”

On a different note, Gooi hoped the state’s legal advisers would look into refining the Penang state constitution to ensure the governor’s power in choosing the chief minister was kept in check to prevent any of the crisis situations that had arisen in other states.

Mohd Yusni Mat Piah (PAS-Penaga) said if the current CM can perform, then he should be allowed to serve for three or four terms.

“As long as there are no scandals, such as buying luxury bungalows, and the CM continues to perform well.”

Muhammad Faiz Fadzil (Amanah-Permatang Pasir) said the term limit was in line with Islam as it prevented a person from committing acts of corruption.

“It provides new blood to govern the state. Although one might have the ability, there is the real chance of graft occurring.

“I believe this term limit will prevent bad things from happening in governing the state.”

Chow: It’s not robbing anyone of chance to become CM

At the winding-up stage, Chow said the term limit was “unprecedented” as it restored the faith of the people in political parties and the governments they run.

“We always hear people saying ‘by the stroke of a pen, we can do something good or undo something bad’. I don’t see what we’re doing this evening as robbing the right of someone to become a CM.

“I see it as a restoration of the confidence the rakyat has in us.

“Don’t forget that the people voted out BN after they lost confidence in its leadership and due to a lack of check-and-balance and institutional governance.

“I have never assumed this office I am in as something personal. I’m in this as a public officer, in a public office.

“And in public office, we are expected to do our best and I’m just doing that.”

The assembly also passed the 2019 Supply Bill amounting to RM866.8 million.