Happy first anniversary in government, Pakatan Harapan!
But, of course, in Penang and Selangor, we have had them around for 11 years, though they were called Pakatan Rakyat for several years.
So, PH-wise, how has it been since last May 9? The proceedings of the recent Penang state assembly might be a good gauge.
I was always a little nervous about a state assembly with an Opposition that was next to nothing or non-existent.
In 1999, I was posted to Johor and watched the proceedings of an entire Hall of Barisan Nasional representatives.
For those not clear on the governance of any state, here is the nutshell:
The powers of governance are three – the judiciary, legislature and executive. It is the job of the legislature to oversee, investigate and make rules for the executive.
State assembly meetings are when our legislature gets to grill Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and his exco members on what they have been doing over the last six months or so.
Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin wanted to know why a women’s society in Pulau Aman could get RM10,000 a month to handle public cleanliness on that island but Village Community Management Councils in her constituency could not get such allocations.
It turned out that the RM10,000 allocation was part of a gender responsive participatory budgeting.
Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Daniel Gooi Zi Sen also told the august House that a futsal court by the sea in Tan Jetty had fallen into disuse, as futsal players kept sending their balls flying into the sea due to the low fencing.
Pulau Tikus assemblyman Chris Lee Chun Kit also posed a question to Utilities Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari during the assembly.
He wanted to know whether the internet service providers would extend their coverage to low- density areas, as they only focus on high-density apartment blocks to achieve economy of scale.
Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon went on and on, demanding solutions to the illegal waste dumping discovered in his turf recently.
I do not have enough print space here to tell Penangites how your assemblymen have been performing, but suffice to say that almost all of them demanded answers for the problems in their constituencies.
There was no politicking, no twisting of facts to make the executive look bad. They just wanted answers and solutions.
Even Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang took part in the checking and balancing. When any assemblyman raised a perplexing issue, Law swivelled his head to the row of state exco members on his right and in his deep baritone voice, curtly ordered: “Jelaskan” (explain it).
Umno’s Opposition Leader Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor is the Penang Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman.
This is a powerful body with the authority to convene whenever it wants and summon whoever it wants to answer anything it asks.
Every utterance by everyone during the proceedings by PAC is minuted, and you get the blow-by-blow account of PAC interrogating state department directors, among others.
I had the privilege of reading one of the recent reports and I must say it feels good to have our Opposition Leader heading the PAC.
Just because Muhamad Yusoff is ‘on the other side’ does not mean he does not have Penang’s best interests at heart.
He, above all, has the licence to be sceptical and critical of what the government is doing, and we need that.
“There are no issues with him being our chairman. He facilitates the meetings well and sometimes we behave more like the opposition than him, so he helps us to keep our meetings sensible,” said Bagan Dalam assemblyman M. Satees, who is a PAC committee member from DAP.
Also in the PAC is Penaga assemblyman Mohd Yusni Mat Piah, from PAS, and he had this to say.
“Penang’s Competency, Accountability and Transparency policy is generally upheld in the state government but it is lacking in government-linked companies and agencies.
“We found instances where some of them issued payments to invoices that cannot be found.
“Some of their heads approved payments higher than what they were authorised to make without consulting their board of directors.
“We have submitted all our reports on these, and we want the government to ensure that their agencies practise a higher degree of transparency and accountability.”
There is definitely still room for improvement for PH in Penang. But not too bad afterall.