PENANG government’s two-day engagement session of exco members and assemblymen was a good avenue to put government agencies on alert, said Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said while the state might be under the conditional movement control order (MCO), the session showed that such a “mini state assembly” could be carried out under strict standard operating procedures.
“This is a check and balance session for the state’s administration since the state assembly cannot be convened due to the declaration of Emergency.
“The session showed that assemblymen had serious and relevant questions.
“A total of 129 questions were received by the state assembly secretariat, ” said Chow at a press conference after the first half of the engagement session at a hotel in George Town yesterday.
The first-day session saw 35 out of 40 assemblymen present.
Backbencher assemblyman Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (Pantai Jerejak) was absent for reasons not made known.
Four others apparently chose to stay away from the meeting.
They were Dr Afif Bahardin (Seberang Jaya), Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq (Bertam), Zolkifly
Md Lazim (Teluk Bahang) and Zulkifly Ibrahim (Sungai Acheh), all from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
They claimed that their allocations were withdrawn but this was refuted by Chow.
On the engagement session, Chow said the earlier plan was to have it partly online and physically, with exco members being physically present while assemblymen attend online.
“But when the conditional MCO came into effect, we decided to change accordingly since the SOPs were less stringent, ” he said.
Among the exco members who spoke on the first day was Dr Norlela Ariffin, who had a difficult time maintaining her time limit to the point that Chow had to intervene and ask her to keep her speech brief so that assemblymen could ask their questions within the stipulated time.
The ‘teething’ issues of the new format were solved after Yeoh Soon Hin (tourism and creative economy committee chairman) took the floor and things flowed smoothly from there on.
Others who spoke yesterday were Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain (trade, industry and entrepreneurial development committee chairman, Zairil Khir Johari (infrastructure and transportation) and Phee Boon Poh (environment and welfare).
Opposition Leader Datuk Muhammad Yusoff Mohd Noor (Sungai Dua), Nor Hafizah Othman (Permatang Berangan), Mohd Yusni Mat Piah (Penaga) and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is Air Putih assemblyman, were among those present.
The physical layout of the session was a replica of a state assembly sitting, albeit without the Speaker, with full-force turnout of government department heads and heads of government agencies.
Each exco member delivered a 20-minute speech, followed by a 40-minute question-and-answer session, ending with a brief summary of the discussion.
A bell was rung once to remind exco members that they have 10 minutes left and twice to indicate it is time for them to wrap-up.
Chow also said the state, through the legal adviser, was looking into provisions for which under the Emergency, the Yang di-Pertua Negri can write to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to convene the Penang State Assembly.