The proposal is just an excuse for the government to put an opposition territory under the BN’s malicious control, writes Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Tengku Adnan has said that the notion to add a Federal Territory in Malaysia is simply a suggestion that “requires proposal, referendum and approval at national level”.
It goes without saying that Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and even Putrajaya should then have been accorded the same level of decency when they were put under the government’s reign.
In addition to a referendum for Penangites, would Tengku Adnan also consider holding one for KL-ites? For a variety of reasons, residents of KL have long called DBKL’s ability to govern into question.
For one, DBKL’s mismanagement has led to rampant corruption. Just last year, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigated the DBKL project management executive director, who was eventually charged with 18 counts of corruption, including accepting bribes and assets estimated at RM4.4m.
Secondly, DBKL is incompetent in developing KL in a sustainable manner. Throughout the years, DBKL has permitted developers such as Amona Group, IJM Land to encroach upon Bukit Gasing, one of Kuala Lumpur’s last remaining green lungs. On the other hand, residents who have raised their concerns — over the risk of landslides, overcrowding, traffic congestion — to DBKL are often dismissed in favour of profit-making purposes, at the expense of KL’s environmental sustainability.
Thirdly, DBKL has failed to provide KL’s low-income residents a decent standard of living. Low sanitation and maintenance standards, in addition to illegal leasing, are among the foremost problems of PPR housing in KL, while DBKL itself is also struggling with mounting levels of unpaid rent. Tengku Adnan’s promise to provide affordable homes to Penangites by virtue of transferring Penang to the clutches of the federal government will prove to be nothing but an empty promise.
Before Tengku Adnan commences a referendum in Penang, consider also polling the residents of KL about the city’s performance under federal territory jurisdiction. Contrary to Tengku Adnan’s claim that a federal territory would prevent the oppression of citizens – Malay or not, for decades, residents of KL have only experienced poor city planning and development, coupled with the government’s negligence towards their welfare.
Kunan’s abysmal track record
Throughout his four years as the Federal Territories Minister, Tengku Adnan has proposed and implemented many policies that have caused much public distress.
In 2013, Tengku Adnan proposed a hike in annual property assessment rates that ranged between 100 and 250 per cent of the previous rates which elicited a public furore, before capping the rates between 10 and 25 per cent above their existing annual rates.
In 2014, he heartlessly banned soup kitchens within a 2km radius of the KL city centre because “(soup kitchens) just encourages people to remain homeless and jobless”.
This year, his proposal to ban kapcais from KL also met with much dissatisfaction from KL-lites. Keeping Kunan’s many hare-brained proposals in mind, we must take extra precaution when evaluating the merits of his suggestion that the state of Penang be left under his ministry’s jurisdiction.
Federal territory system an undemocratic model of governance
Over the years that the BN government reigned over KL in the guise of a federal territory, the rights of KL-ites have been plundered with impunity. Corruption depleted public coffers, while irresponsible planning lowered standards of living.
In the 2013 general elections, 9 out of the 11 parliamentary constituencies in Kuala Lumpur were won by opposition lawmakers. Yet, the mayor of Kuala Lumpur is not only unelected, but also appointed by none other than our Minister of Federal Territories and Umno lawmaker, Tengku Adnan. In addition, Kuala Lumpur does not even have its own state government.
Despite DBKL having one of the largest budgets among all states and federal territories in Malaysia, the people of Kuala Lumpur have to surrender financial control to the whims and fancies of an Umno politician like Tengku Adnan. Ironically, members of Parliament who were elected to represent the concerns of KL-ites have little say in decision-making and are subjugated to the mayor, who in turn, reports to Tengku Adnan.
As such, the conversion of Penang from a state to a federal territory is just an excuse for the government to put an opposition territory under the BN’s malicious control. Now, Tengku Adnan is mustering the audacity to coerce the opposition into relinquishing its governance of Penang when 10 out of 13 parliamentary constituencies in the state have decidedly elected opposition lawmakers in the 2013 general elections.
Clearly, we must not allow the BN’s undemocratic practices to oppress other regions in Malaysia.
Tengku Adnan’s proposal to categorise Penang as a federal territory, as opposed to retaining the northern region’s autonomy as a state is dubious at best — and authoritarian at worst. Such a politically motivated proposal flies in the face of public interest and will only be implemented to fulfil the blind ambition of power-hungry BN politicians.
Nurul Izzah Anwar is the member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai.