The Penang CM's Irresponsible Blame Frame

COMMENT More than twenty years ago, when the CM of Penang was an aspiring DAP leader under the watchful eyes of his father, his stance in public was invariably that of a squabbling adversary.

Headlines in the party newspaper at the time would emblazon acerbic accusations such as ‘Keng Yaik, you are a liar!’ to the approval of fawning devotees.

Despite his many years of political experience and the fact that he is now safely ensconced as Penang’s chief minister, we still witness the same cockerel stance and irresponsible blaming attitude.

Through the years many personalities have been targeted as ‘liars’ by the CM.

Here I will confine my observations to just three recent episodes:

(i) The CM calling a councillor a liar for pointing out the tardiness of municipal officers;

(ii) The CM’s personal challenge to a valid query by a Member of Parliament who had raised questions of suspected irregularities in the purchase of the CM’s house, and

(iii) The CM’s repeated public excoriation of the leader of the Malay-based Islamic party using the same irresponsible label

The Penang CM would do well to live up to the claims of a democrat as suggested by his party name.

As someone in a responsible position from which he is seen to be leading the state into a better future, he ought to have outgrown the blame frame mentality.

Whenever any issues arise it would be more useful if he asks instead, “What happened? What are our solutions?” and proceed to account for any improprieties.

1. CM calls councillor liar seven times in one statement

Highly-respected Penang Island city councilor Dr Lim Mah Hui, who was accused of lying by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over the towing of cars, has asked Lim and the 12 councillors mainly from the DAP who maligned him to apologise to him publicly without any prejudice to his right to legal recourse.

Dr Lim said Guan Eng issued a highly defamatory public statement on March 12 accusing him of being a “hero with lies” and “lying” no fewer than seven times.

Dr Lim said:“These accusations went against the very principles of Competency, Accountability, and Transparency (CAT) that the state government claims to espouse.

Instead we see incompetence in accountability and a flagrant injustice to me personally and as an MBPP councillor.”

As if he did not know the role of a city councilor, the combative CM had also challenged Dr Lim to “take over and oversee” the towing of cars in the council.

Dr Lim of course declined and said his role as a councillor is to advise and it was the job of the city council's personnel to enforce the council’s regulations.

2. CM challenges MP over ‘dodgy’ bungalow purchase

Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya Shabudin had made a typically DAP-style revelation in Parliament recently that the bungalow that the CM bought, on 10,161 sq ft (943.98 sq metres) of land, on Oct 25 last year for RM2.8 million was actually worth between RM6 million and RM6.5 million on the market.

Furthermore, the previous houseowner was linked to the company which had won the bid in the sale of a piece of land at Taman Manggis.

In response, Lim threw a challenge to Shabudin the next day for a one-on-one meeting at his office in Komtar and when the latter declined, he expressed disappointment with the Tasek Gelugor MP for not show up, saying:“Datuk Shabudin had the opportunity to seek clarification over his allegation in Parliament. His absence was unbecoming of a leader who has thrown malicious accusations against me.”

As if it was a vindication of his accountability, the CM and his wife then took a group of journalists for a tour of his bungalow to show them that the property was not comparable to Khir Toyo’s mansion nor did it have a swimming pool!

And in shocking display of pretended ignorance, the CM claimed that he did not know the market value of the bungalow he bought last year for RM2.8 million.
Speaking to reporters invited to view his house, he said he was not a property agent.For a CM who has to know the property value of reclamation land and property development throughout Penang island to claim he does not know the property value of his own house on the market, that is truly incredible! I dare say, if we take a survey, practically every house owner in Malaysia, including those who are not highly educated, will say they know the market value of the house they own...

3. CM calls PAS leader a liar again and again

The third and perhaps the most consequential target of the CM’s attacks is the leader of the Malay-based Islamic party, Ustaz Hadi Awang.

The DAP CM has called the PAS leader a liar so many times over hudud, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the Kajang Move... we have lost count.

Considering the DAP claims that it is trying to reach out to the Malay community in order to dilute its image as a Chinese-based party, I honestly cannot understand how their CM does not think that his persistent attacks on the PAS paramount leader is downright rude and only serves to mobilise PAS’ Malay supporters against the DAP.

Does the DAP really think the damage to the DAP’s image from such outbursts against the PAS spiritual leader is outweighed by their few token Malays in the DAP leadership?

Even if the Penang CM can be excused for his immaturity, surely his father who has been in politics ever since the Tunku’s era should know such Malaysian reality and the mentality of the Malay voters.Noticing the absence of PAS supporters at the recent Bersih 4 rally, it would be foolish to simply assume that PAS supporters are inconsequential and only important in the rural constituencies.

Accountable, responsible and democratic leaders

Leaders who claim to aspire to ‘the Malaysian dream’ are expected to practice what they preach and to behave responsibly. Nothing less than transparent, principled, democratic behaviour will do. And what does such democratic behaviour in meetings look like and sound likWell for a start, it is inclusive, everybody has the right to be heard and collectively agree on the rules by which dialogue takes place and how decisions will be made. There will be respectful exchanges in which feedback about the issues and facts is given without fear or favour. Of course if the collective rules are broken there is a basis for next steps, and even then responsible leaders do not resort to personal attack.

We hope the Penang CM will spare us any further blame frames and personal attacks and set an example with accountable, responsible and democratic action that Malaysians expect.

Written by Kua Kia Soong and sourced from

KUA KIA SOONG is adviser to human rights movement Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).
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