Backbencher wants more autonomy for Penang

Bukit Tengah assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung speaks to the press in George Town November 12, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Bukit Tengah assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung speaks to the press in George Town November 12, 2018. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 12 — Penang should have more autonomy to make decisions on matters that affect the state, a backbencher told the State Legislative Assembly today.

Gooi Hsiao Leung (PH - Bukit Tengah) said the state government has state excos in charge of healthcare, education, transport and other portfolios but they were not as effective as they should be.

“This is because all control structure lies with the central government. Even when the state government wants to reinstate the Penang Voluntary Patrol Team (PPS), it cannot be done without federal approval,” he said when debating the 2019 Supply Bill.

Gooi said the decentralisation and devolution of powers from the federal government to not just Penang but the other states in the country should be relooked.

“Currently, the federal government has authority over all important matters, leaving the state government with very little power,” he said.

National policy-making bodies that control laws that the states can make should also be re-examined, he said.

“For example, the national council for local government (NCLG) and the national land council (NLC),” he said.

He said the state governments must follow the policies made by the NCLG.

“The NCLG is a body that makes national policies for the promotion, development and control of local governments in all of Malaysia, so states will have to follow its policy which presents an obstacle for our state to hold local council elections,” he said.

Satees Muniandy (PH - Bagan Dalam) interjected and asked Gooi if he agreed that local government elections should be held.

“I have asked about the plans for local government elections to be held and the state government has said steps are being taken to implement it,” Gooi replied.

He believed that in the long term, there will be decentralisation of powers that will enable state governments to hold local council elections.

He said if each state has greater autonomy, they will be able to develop and progress faster and better.

“It will be better for Penang as we are in the best position to know what is needed for our state instead of bureaucrats stationed far away in Putrajaya,” he said.

Gooi also pointed out that federal funds that were being distributed were done in an unfair manner previously.

“Penang received only 3 per cent of the tax revenue collected from the state between 2001 and 2008,” he said.

He said the Budgets of all 13 states in Malaysia combined were equivalent to only 6 per cent of the federal budget in 2013 and the figure lowered to 0.2 per cent in 2018.

“This is why DAP, back in 2009, had proposed that the federal government provides 20 per cent of tax revenues from a state be returned as the state’s entitlement,” he said.

He said the previous Barisan Nasional federal government had over the years undermined and treated states unfairly and Penang was sidelined when it was taken over by the then Pakatan Rakyat in 2008.

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