KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Bristling over Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s suggestion that DAP’s Lim Guan Eng resign as Penang chief minister to end the so-called antagonism between the state and Putrajaya, a lawmaker asked today if this meant the former prime minister was afraid of Pakatan Rakyat’s successes.
Disagreeing with the suggestion, Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim claimed in a statement here that the regime change in Penang had served the state well, “even by Dr Mahathir’s standards”.
He reminded Dr Mahathir that over two decades ago when he was still prime minister, he had remarked that Penang was so dirty, it should be called “Pulau Pinang Darul Sampah” or "Penang the Garbage State", instead of Penang, the Pearl of the Orient.
“At that time, Penang was run by the same regime as the federal government,” Sim said, referring to Barisan Nasional.
“Since 2008, under the leadership of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, the Pakatan Rakyat government has managed to transform Penang from being what Dr Mahathir himself called "Darul Sampah" into the most liveable city in Malaysia and the 8th most liveable city in Asia.
“It is clear that by Dr Mahathir’s own standard, Penang under Pakatan Rakyat was radically transformed for the better,” the lawmaker said.
Sim then extended an invite to Dr Mahathir to Penang, saying it was possible the former prime minister has not visited the state for some time.
Penang’s successes, he added, can be contrasted against the failures of Putrajaya.
“Is Dr Mahathir afraid of Pakatan Rakyat because of its success?” he asked.
The lawmaker claimed that unlike Putrajaya, which has come under heavy criticism of late, even from Dr Mahathir himself, Penang has been receiving praise for its economic achievements, welfare programmes, environmental care and anti-graft stance.
“It is unfortunate that Dr Mahathir chose to conflate the corrupt and incompetent federal government under Najib with the widely-acknowledged clean and competent Penang state government under Lim.
“Question arises whether he did this out of fear due to the success of Pakatan Rakyat in a time when many, including Dr Mahathir himself, see Umno-Barisan Nasional as a failed regime,” Sim said.
Dr Mahathir has been at the forefront of attacks against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the many issues plaguing the administration that he claimed the leader has failed to address, and has even urged for his resignation.
Yesterday, after launching a book compiling his letters to world leaders, Sim had asked Dr Mahathir what he would write to both Najib and Lim now.
Dr Mahathir replied saying he would ask both men to resign to end the antagonism between Penang and Putrajaya, also claiming that because of the rift, racial sentiments are often played up.
On Dr Mahathir’s mention of racial sentiments, Sim asked: “Did Dr Mahathir forget that Lim Guan Eng went to jail for defending a Malay girl?”
He reminded Dr Mahathir that it had been Lim who had lost his freedom when he was jailed 18 months for standing up to defend a Malay girl who had allegedly been raped by a senior Umno leader.
“I want to reassure Dr. Mahathir by way of reminder that the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng will not ‘fall back on racists sentiments’,” he said.