The verbal clash between Gerakan and Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow over the autonomy of the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) has not ended despite the latter's assurance that the state agency is still under state control.
Today, Gerakan deputy president Oh Tong Keong (photo, centre) insisted that his criticisms about PDC losing its power to the federal government were to remind Chow and the state government that it should not "pawn" the interests of Penangnites away to certain quarters.
"We hope that the state government can assure Penangnites that the federal government will not interfere in the development of Penang," Oh said in a statement.
The dispute between Chow and Oh came about after the Economics Affairs Ministry announced that 32 agencies, including the PDC, would come under its supervision and monitoring to iron out long-standing policy disparities between the state and federal governments.
Chow has clarified that PDC would still be under the control of the state as the chief minister has the power to appoint or sack the agency's board of directors.
He said the 1971 PDC enactment merely stated that the agency would be supervised and monitored by the federal government, adding the law would not be amended.
Oh urged Chow to clearly explain the role of the PDC, asking "why is it giving the people an impression that it has become a land sales agency?".
"Clarify what it is meant by the so-called monitoring of the PDC by the ministry.
"To what extent is the monitoring (to be carried out)? Does the federal government have the right to intervene in the decision-making of the PDC?"
"These must be explained and clarified. Don't let the so-called monitoring intervene in the affairs of the PDC," Oh said.
Oh added that if the ministry ‘monitors’ the PDC, does it mean that Penang would receive more funds and resources from the ministry to spur and stimulate the economic growth of Penang.
"If this were the case, Gerakan will definitely not oppose it and we are happy to see it happen."
Oh explained why his party is concerned about the matter and has issued several statements about it.
"Gerakan is a responsible opposition party; it has the duty to monitor the state government," he said.
"The party has the responsibility to inform the government what are the worries of the people.
"Now, the people are worried that the state government will pawn away the PDC, which is why we decided to speak up," he added.
Oh pointed out that in the early period of the Gerakan administration, one of the functions of the PDC was to build affordable and medium-cost houses.
These were houses that the people in the middle and lower income group could afford, he said.
"However, when the DAP came to power, the PDC management has sold some land in recent years and gradually made people feel that it has become a land sales institution," said Oh.
"In view of this, Chow must explain how many (plots of) land have been sold by the PDC in the past 10 years," Oh said.
He said he believes that throughout Dr Mahathir Mohamad's 22 years in his first term as prime minister, cronyism was rampant.
"Now he has returned to the office again. Therefore, the DAP must ensure that the so-called PDC monitors will not evolve into the ministry abusing the land resources of Penang for the benefit of Pakatan Harapan. "