Penang, the middle child


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  • Tuesday, 12 Jun 2018

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the first to drive across Penang Bridge, in a red generation-one Proton Saga in 1985, when he opened it. That is one of the things I remember about him in relation to Penang.

Another Mahathir-Penang episode that sticks in my head was when he visited us sometime between 1995 and 1996 and angrily named the state “Pulau Pinang Darul Sampah” (Penang, House of Rubbish). We had poor cleanliness back then.

There is one other episode I will always remember, though it is a little embarrassing for DAP.

During the 1995 general election, Penang DAP thought up a political campaign and called it, of all things, Robocop.

The party had images of Robocop in all their propaganda material; I remember a larger-than-life cutout of the android policeman above a DAP office.

So much water has gone under the bridge, I no longer recall what DAP was gunning for then, except that they swore to fight corruption and travesties of justice like Robocop did.

When Dr Mahathir came to Penang to campaign for Barisan Nasional then, his strategy for flooring DAP was simple: he laughed at it. At every ceramah in Penang, when he commented on DAP’s Robocop, he guffawed and cackled and had the audience howling with him.

The then DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang was trounced in that election when he went against then chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon in the Tanjung Bungah state seat. But he did remain as Tanjung MP and soldiered on in Parliament.

Now, I have another Mahathir-Penang memory which I plan on keeping.

Last Thursday, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow went to Putrajaya to attend the National Finance Council. In this meeting, all chief ministers and mentris besar outlined their state’s financial needs and status.

Chow revealed on Facebook that when it was Penang’s turn, Dr Mahathir said Penang was a “rich state”.

Chow then added: “But we still need a lot more allocations for infrastructure projects, public housing and flood mitigation.”

The vibes I got from our Chief Minister’s post made me a little uneasy. Will the Federal Government put Penang on the back burner and focus on helping the other not-so-developed states? Not again...

It seems to me that Penang has the middle-child syndrome.

Why do I often get the feeling that Penang must always wait for hand-me-downs from the bigger states and make way for the less affluent ones?

I have been getting this feeling since the 90s. We were always a few steps behind Selangor and Kuala Lumpur and we had to be content with the status quo while plans in Langkawi went full speed ahead.

After returning from Putrajaya, Chow told reporters that he was pushing for fairer allocations of development funds.

Penangites contribute RM6.5bil in income tax a year and last year, we contributed RM5.6bil in goods and services tax. Here’s hoping the Federal Government will channel a few of those billions back to Penang to keep us happy.

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