1 Malaysia, 2 BNs, 3 agendas

by Zairil Khir Johari
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 20, 2012

JUNE 20 — As Malaysians begin to grow weary of the guessing game that is the election date, a more amusing charade is beginning to develop in the northern corner of our country. Of late, one particular state — in fact the second smallest one — seems to be grabbing the lion’s share of media attention.

The sudden obsession with Penang, as evidenced by the unrelenting headlines and the constant barrage of political proclamations on a multitude of Penang-related issues, would appear to speak of a concerted attempt to consolidate the entire federal machinery towards the goal of dismantling the current state government.

Yet interestingly enough, if one were to scrutinise between the lines of the numerous statements made by various Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders regarding Penang, one would begin to wonder whether the blue orchestra was performing in single harmony, or whether they were in fact being directed by numerous conductors playing to different beats.

It all started two months ago with the appointment of Teng Chang Yeow as the new Penang BN chairman. Touted as a strong, credible figure who is able to galvanise a dispirited Penang BN into shape and to captain them to a comeback following their worst-ever defeat, expectations ran high.

Soon after his appointment, Teng opened the offensive by announcing the BN’s grand blueprint to recapture Penang. This plan involved a slew of fanciful ideas such as establishing an international financial centre, an innovation park, an aquaculture hub as well as an international tourism hub. Capping off this litany of promises was a golden carrot in the form of a promise to return “free port” status to the island.

However, even before Teng’s free port idea had the chance to sink in, the BN hull began to crack.

Barely two weeks after Teng’s tour de force, a press conference was called under the BN banner featuring Penang Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan and Penang Umno bigwig cum Penang Port chairman Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya to announce that a free port may not be the best idea, after all.

Instead, it was proposed that a designated duty-free CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) zone be built on the mainland. In fact, Hilmi, a former deputy chief minister of Penang, even went so far as to downplay the idea of a free port by stating that, “… it cannot be like before where the whole island would be duty-free.”

At a time when the BN badly needs to consolidate its machinery ahead of a crucial general election, the appearance of this purported “Team B” only serves to confuse the public. Two BN camps saying two different things? Who’s right and who’s wrong? That’s where Big Brother comes in.

Assuming we live in a world of logic, then it must follow that since Teng Chang Yeow is the anointed BN chief, his view would represent the official party position. This is especially so when, at his own earlier press conference, Teng had himself confidently stressed: “When I raised the matter with the PM, he did say he will look into it positively.”

It would appear, however, that either Teng or the prime minister had suffered a bout of miscommunication. In the latest development, the prime minister had, through a parliamentary reply last week, stated that “bearing in mind that Penang has five free trade zones and that the free port concept is now non-existent, the issue of granting free port status to Penang no longer arises.”

It is not enough that Teng’s own colleagues disagree with him; it now appears that his own boss does not support him as well. But wait, it gets better. After all, no good drama is complete without a third party joining the fray.

As if the divergent stances on the free port agenda weren’t enough, the MCA — feeling a bit left out — has now thrown its hat into the crowded ring by supporting a plan to privatise the Penang Port to Umno-linked tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

Flexing his muscles as the chairman of the Penang Port commission, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek recently issued a derisive warning to the Penang state government. According to the MCA president, any attempt to derail or refusal to co-operate with the federal government’s plan to privatise the Penang Port would only be “sabotaging” what he asserts to be a move that would “improve the efficiency of the port.”

Of course, no decision in this country has weight unless the prime minister himself has backed it. Thus, Dr Chua was quick to drop his name by claiming that it was a decision agreed to by the prime minister after he had “looked at the effect on the entire state before making a decision on the privatisation of Penang Port.”

Teng, however, does not appear to be convinced. Breaking ranks from the federal leadership, the Penang BN chief has instead chosen to echo the DAP leaders in the Penang state government by opposing the Penang Port privatisation plan. In his latest statement, Teng insists that he and his colleagues would urge the prime minister to reconsider.

The situation within Penang BN is getting more ridiculous by the day. On the one hand, a new state chief was chosen for his purported ability to “rejuvenate” the ailing coalition in order to “regain BN’s pride and dignity.” On the other, a group of renegade state BN leaders have, in their zeal to prove their relevance, ended up undermining the efforts of the former.

And to further complicate matters, you have an even more irrelevant leader trying to promote an idea that is immediately and vehemently opposed not only by the rival state government but also by the state BN chairman. This, of course, wouldn’t be half the problem it is if the prime minister didn’t also support it.

Two months ago, when Teng Chang Yeow boldly announced on his Facebook page that he was prepared to “fight policy to policy”, I think even he had no clue that he would end up battling not only his own colleagues but also his own boss.

Truly, with friends like these, Teng needs no enemies.

  1. #1 by Godfather on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 10:21 am

    Yes, the UMNO machinery is geared up to put LGE under a microscope. Problem is that different people have different views of the same thing under the microscope. Helen Ang terms DAP people like LGE and Hannah Yeoh as “fat cats”, and even posted distorted pictures of her targets to signify the DAP leaders as “fat”, notwithstanding that the blogger is no skinny cat herself. The STAR made a big issue out of hillside development, but went quiet when it was pointed out that BN approved more hillside projects when compared to Pakatan’s zero approval.

    That’s the BN strategy for now – make mountains out of molehills, and when their mistakes are pointed out, maintain elegant silence.

  2. #2 by Winston on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 10:38 am

    When are these inane people going to wake up to the stark, simple fact that Penang under LGE has done in a few short years what Gerakan has not been able to do in eighteen when they were given the mandate?
    And the last GE was a virtual wipe-out for both the Gerakan and MCA.
    Malaysians are very much wiser since and now even the Malays themselves hated the UMNO/BN government.
    Undoubtedly, they, as well as all the other races in both East and West Malaysia are incensed by the corruption, cheating, lying, scamming that has been going on non stop.
    Day in day out.
    With right in your face blatancy.
    Can anyone who has any sanity left support such a government and give them more chances to enable them to do more of the same old same old?
    No, Malaysians are incensed by corruption, scams, lying and cheating.
    And with such incidents fresh in their memory, they will unfailingly vote such people and parties out.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 10:50 am

    What – “fight policy to policy” (per Teng Chang Yeow)??? “Policy” assumes a plan or course of action, as of a government or political party which is coherent being based on a certain known and predictable guiding principle. However what and where can there be an intelligible guiding principle in Bolehland’s affairs when stake in $$$$ is big? Is the guiding principle something beneficial to Penang or the Country as officially professed? No, not necessarily – for it may be influenced by considerations whether the course/principle would benefit or deprive a business crony of benefit and also on who between competing cronies has greater political patronage and leverage to deserve the benefit. Is the guiding principle then based on power based on hierarchy eg what the Penang chairman Teng Chang Yeow say (until otherwise overruled by his party boss (MCA Chief) or the ultimate official boss up in the BN coalition/government hierarchy? However even this hierarchy benchmark is not certain as this ultimate decision maker may also not be that “ultimate” as under the patronage system he may for political horse trading expedience defer to the lobbying of another political warlord whether within or outside this hierarchy. Talking of fighting policy with policy is meaningless when there is no guiding principle above the radar agreed by all except political expedience of the moment.

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 2:30 pm

    BN is well-known for its flip-flop decision making.

  5. #5 by Dap man on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 2:44 pm

    BN is still under the impression that the Penang Chinese are gullible fools.
    It will be a shame on the community even to give one Penang seat to MCA or Gerakan.

  6. #6 by undertaker888 on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 3:33 pm

    ///Barely two weeks after Teng’s tour de force////

    Or is it tour de farce?

  7. #7 by monsterball on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 - 4:54 pm

    When you eat too much at night…you will have nightmares.
    When one has succeeded to use race and religion to con his own race..winning elections after elections…and become rouges and thieves with no fear…..they are living in a fantasy world.

  8. #8 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 21 June 2012 - 8:49 am

    Hey monsterball, I keep on reading “rouges” in most of your comments. Or you meant “rogues”?

  9. #9 by monsterball on Thursday, 21 June 2012 - 9:06 am

    The headline speaks for itself.
    Indeed…BN have many faces.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Thursday, 21 June 2012 - 9:09 am

    You are right “undertaker888”
    I seldom read through and check the spellings.
    Take is as sound alike …….hahahahahaha
    Thanks anyway.

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