(Penang, Wednesday): In the past month, Penang DAP has been swfitly regaining its role as the engine-head of the national campaign for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
Penang DAP led not only the party but the country in being the first to organise a public meeting to protest against the brutalities, atrocities and organised mass gang rapes of Indonesian women and children and also introduced an annual P. Patto Memorial Meeting in Penang so that the spirit, sacrifice and selflessness of the late P. Patto, undoubtedly a great warrior for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, can be the inspiration of the living.
On 16th August in Kuala Lumpur, emulating the example of Penang DAP, there will be the launching of an annual P.Patto Memorial National Conference to deal with national and international issues which have always been closest to the heart of Patto during his lifetime. At this inaugural P. Patto Memorial Annual National Conference, DAP will announce details of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Watchdog Panel and EPF Contributors Association to protect the rights and interests of the nine million EPF contributors, whose total funds are in the region of RM160 billion with a RM1.2 billion monthly increase of EPF contributions and to demand EPF accountability and transparency.
The theme of the P.Patto Memorial National Conference is "Forty Years After Merdeka - The Economic Crisis and Malaysian Indians".
In the past month, the Penang DAP is also regaining its role as the voice of the people of Penang after a lapse of three years.
The Penang DAP was the first and in fact the only political party to highlight the adverse effects of the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to the Penang economy and tourism industry and to propose the restoration of some of the Penang-based MAS flights through Subang Airport.
I first raised this issue in Parliament some two weeks ago and had repeated
this suggestion both inside and outside Parliament.
I am very surprised that no UMNO, MCA or Gerakan MP, had stood up in Parliament to support my concern over the adverse effects of the KLIA to the Penang economy and to support the proposal that MAS should shift some of the Penang-based flights back to Subang airport. This in fact raises the question as to what is the use of having so many Barisan Nasional MPs in Parliament from Penang, when they dare not even stand up in Parliament to speak up for the rights and interests of the people of Penang.
This is why I welcome the belated realisation of the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik who announced on Monday that Malaysian Airlines will shift some of its domestic flights back to Subang airport.
I had publicly asked the Penang State Government and the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon not to keep mum about the adverse effects of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Penang economy and tourism for the past month.
Before the shift from Subang International Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, it was very difficult to book flights from Penang to Kuala Lumpur on Monday mornings, as all flights would be fully-booked quite well in advance.
However, for over a month since KLIA started operating, it was no problem to get on MAS flights from Penang to Kuala Lumpur on Monday mornings, although there has been a reduction in the number of flights. In fact, it is common for the MAS flights to have very few passengers - such as some 20 passengers in an Airbus with a capacity of some 280 - with the passenger load often in the region of between 10 to 20 per cent.
This is a very serious sitatuion as MAS has slashed by over one third its Penang-based flights, from about 45 flights a day to less than 30 flights a day, but there is still very poor passenger load because of KLIA - not just the inconvenience arising from its distance from Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya, but because of the failure of the KLIA to operate smoothly and efficiently despite nearly one month of operations.
Although Liong Sik announced on Monday that MAS would shift some of its domestic flights back to Subang airport, this has not been introduced yet. I call on MAS to give top priority to the restoration of its Penang-based flights to Subang, as this is its most profitable sector in Peninsular Malaysia.
MAS should by latest this Saturday start shifting at least 50 per cent of its Penang-based flights back to Subang airport, and I have no doubt that there would be more passengers flying on the Kuala Lumpur-Penang-Kuala Lumpur sector than during the previous month using the KLIA.
This is for the good of Penang tourism, Penang economy, the convenience
of the passengers and equally important, for the commercial survival of
Penang DAP was also the first, and the only political party so far, to urge the Penang State Government to support the recommendation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) in its National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) released by Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to relieve the burden of sewerage costs of all ratepayers.
So far, there has been no response from either the Penang State Government or the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon to the Penang DAP proposal that in the spirit of the motto "Penang Leads", the Penang State Government make a policy decision to implement the NEAC recommendation and direct the MPSP and the MPPP to give a rebate on sewerage costs to ratepayers from the assessment rates as the IWK has taken over the services.
The NERP made three recommendations in connection with the nation-wide complaints by the people about the Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) services and charges, and one of its recommendations was to echo the complaint of all ratepayers that "Customers do not want to pay twice for the same service" and that "Local authorities need to give a rebate on sewerage costs to consumers from assessment rates once IWK takes over the services".
However, the Penang State Government seems to fight shy of leading all state governments to publicly announce that the Penang State Government would accept and implement the NEACís NERP recommendation that local authorities give a rebate on sewerage costs to consumers from assessment rates, giving MPSP and MPPP one month to announce the details of such a rebate on sewerage costs to all ratepayers from assessment rates.
The Penang State Economic Action Council, modelled after the NEAC, recently
held its meeting. Did the Penang State Economic Action Council discuss
and decide on this issue?
Penang DAP must seriously prepare for the next general elections as it is not far away, primarily because the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad must have now realised that the longer he delays the polls date, the worse it is going to be for the Barisan Nasional, as the Malaysian economic crisis has not reached the rock-bottom with no light at the end of the tunnel, and the worst is yet to come.
Mahathir would of course lose his 10-sen wager with me that general elections would not be held this year, but what is a 10-sen wager compared to choosing the most opportune, or least worst, time for the holding of general elections?
The Barisan Nasional would be returned to power in the next general elections, whether at the Federal or Penang state level, as even in Penang, the DAPís objective is to be a strong, effective and even powerful Opposition.
However, for the first time in Malaysian elections history, the possibility of denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general elections is real and near.
We must begin to get our election machinery in Penang into motion as we should not rule out the possibility of Mahathir dissolving Parliament and holding general elections in October or November after SUKOM next month. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if the Sabah state general elections and the national general elections are held simultaneously this time.