Penang exco upset over ‘surprise’ opening of Zuraida’s service centre

Penang Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh says Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin should have discussed the setting up of her complaints centre with the state government.

GEORGE TOWN: A state executive councillor is upset a federal minister has opened a complaints centre in Butterworth without discussing it with the state government.

This comes after Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin opened a “KPKT Minister Complaints Centre” in Bagan Ajam to address issues related to local government, solid waste management and the fire department.

Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said while there were no objections against Zuraida’s right to open a centre, she could have discussed the matter with the state government.

“There was no contact with the local government division, the state exco in charge or the chief minister. We take this centre as a sign that you do not have trust in us.

“What more, Bagan Ajam is served by a federal minister and two state exco members.

“If the ministry wants to open an office here, it should follow procedures or else people would not give you respect. If you don’t follow procedures, people will assume there are hidden intentions,” he told FMT.

Bagan Ajam is part of the Bagan parliamentary constituency of which Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is the MP.

Phee is the assemblyman for Sungai Puyu, and Soon Lip Chee the assemblyman for Bagan Jermal, which both fall within the Bagan area. Soon is also an exco member.

Phee said it would have been better if Zuraida had opened her centre at a constituency not held by Pakatan Harapan, such as Kepala Batas.

He also also questioned the “strange” manner in which invitations to the opening of the centre were sent out, using two different letterheads – one under PKR and another under the ministry.

He said such invitations would have been sent to the state’s local government division, which was a counterpart of the ministry, but this was not done.

“PKR opened a service centre in Bagan, launched by Tian Chua, recently. So, why the need for another?” he asked.

He said the ministry’s complaints centre also undermined the role of the Public Complaints Bureau (BPA) under the Prime Minister’s Department located at Komtar.

Phee said there were many complaint channels available in Penang, citing as examples the Penang Island City Council and Seberang Perai Municipal Council, which held “meet the customers” sessions every first Friday of the month.

He said besides that, both councils had mobile phone apps and email-based complaints where ratepayers can make their complaints and are usually followed-up almost immediately.

He questioned Zuraida’s claim the centre would help resolve issues concerning affordable housing and solid wastes.

He said Penang had about 600 affordable housing projects and there were avenues for complaints to be addressed.

“There are people who could not get a bank loan of RM42,500 to buy the cheapest affordable home. The state has been proactive by pursuing some of these to be converted to rent-to-own units.”

On the issue of solid wastes, Phee said it had been a year since the illegal dumping crisis began and the problems had not been resolved.

On Saturday, Zuraida launched the centre at Taman Intan in Butterworth. Describing it as the first in the country, she said it would be staffed by officers of Penggerak Dasar Komuniti Negara and her ministry.

She said there were plans to open more centres in Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak.

FMT has contacted Zuraida for her comments on Phee’s statement.