PETALING JAYA: DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng has dismissed claims by party insiders that he and Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow are at loggerheads, claiming they were not true.
He said he and Chow were compatriots, and mere differences of opinion should not be assumed to be a plot to overthrow the chief minister.
“Such imaginary plots are manufactured by those with vested or personal interests or those intolerant of a healthy discussion of public policies that benefit the rakyat,” Lim told FMT.
His comments were in response to a FMT report highlighting apparent unease among the DAP grassroots over a perceived strain between him and Chow, especially during the recently concluded state assembly meeting.
“Differences of opinion do not equate to a plot for removal. We simply seek good governance. As a wakil rakyat, I must express the people’s views about what is best for Penang,” he said.
Lim said talk that he wants to “overthrow” Chow was antiquated, with Chow himself backtracking on a claim that he was under threat of being removed as chief minister.
“Such a claim was not supported with proof. Chow himself admitted that he was wrong about it,” he said.
Disagreements from proposals raised at state assembly
Lim said some of the disagreements that led to assumptions that there was bad blood between him and Chow were several proposals made in the state assembly recently.
He said some of these disagreements were centred around creating a special financial zone (SFZ) for Penang similar to the one in Johor Bahru; buying treated water from Perak; a proposed petroleum or hydrocarbon sales tax similar to Sarawak’s; and a contentious sale of Penang Development Corporation (PDC) land by direct award instead of open tender.
He said the disagreements arose when all the government backbenchers were for the SFZ idea, but Chow put it on the back-burner pending further studies.
On Penang’s plans to buy treated water from Perak, Lim said most of the backbenchers like him had asked that any water treatment plant should be located in Penang.
“Or, at least allow Penang to exert operational control if it (the plant) is placed in Perak, similar to Singapore operating its water treatment plant in Kota Tinggi, Johor,” he said.
“I had suggested that a water treatment plant be built in Seberang Perai with water fed from Perak, or if that is not possible, a plant in Perak close to Seberang Perai, but under the full purview of the Penang Water Supply Corporation. However, Chow did not agree.”
Proposals meant for the benefit of Penangites
Lim said he also raised red flags over the directly negotiated land deal between PDC and Umech Construction Sdn Bhd, which he said was an important public interest case. He asked in the assembly if the 226ha land was “given” to Umech Land Sdn Bhd, which he claims was a dormant company.
“Chow insisted that the PDC directors had approved the sale to the company,” he said.
He said he also weighed in on Chow’s plans to impose petroleum sales taxes similar to Sarawak.
“As a former finance minister and chief minister, (I knew that) Chow’s proposal to enact a state law imposing sales tax is unconstitutional. Even the state legal adviser agrees that such powers are meant for Sabah and Sarawak only,” he said
“So, if Chow does not agree to all of these, that does not mean that all is not well. It is the state assembly, a democratic space. One should not miss the woods from the trees.
“The real issue is whether or not the policies benefit the people of Penang and our children. You cannot stretch the imagination and try to link those differences in public policies to imaginary plots to remove Chow, which he himself had backtracked from,” he said.
Lim said that if the same logic were to be applied, outspoken PKR MP Hassan Karim could be seen as disloyal for “rocking the boat with his maverick views” for seemingly opposing Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim when he was actually a staunch supporter of the unity government.
Anwar is also the PKR president.