Wish for state’s progress, success and happiness

Interview with TYT Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak Yang di-Pertua Negri Pulau Pinang by The Star.

Q1. As the TYT of Penang, what would be your hopes for the state on your official birthday?

Like fellow Penangites, I too have great aspirations for Penang, renowned as a self-sustaining industrial territory in its own right.

My hope is to see Penang continuing to enjoy steady economic growth under a stable government with the creation of new jobs, expansion of existing industries and the development of new sectors.

Quality education is extremely important and I would like to see better access to such education in Penang including the development of skills in great demand in the job market benefitting a larger proportion of the state’s population. It is the mental aptitude of our youth who will unequivocally drive our state forward.

As Penang develops into a truly modern society, we deserve new and better infrastructure facilities to improve the quality of life of the people including modern public transport system, water and sewage systems and other public amenities.

I also hope to see more focus on the implementation of policies and initiatives to promote environmental sustainability in Penang including reducing carbon emissions, greater use of e-vehicles, increasing use of renewable energy sources and protecting the state’s natural resources.

But above all these, my greatest hope is to see Penang becoming a truly happy state with Penangites living in peace and harmony, free from discrimination and prejudice.

Inter-racial harmony and stability in the state is crucial to building a strong and united community that can work together to address the various challenges that lie ahead.

Q2. The lack of a proper and effective public transport system as well as a good traffic dispersal management system has long been a problem with the state, especially on the island. The proposed LRT project, which could span 30km between the Komtar area and the Penang international airport, is long overdue. As the TYT, would you wish for this project to be expedited?

Penang island is a historically unique city. Over the years traffic congestion has significantly increased. While this has become a big issue, it is also a sign of urban progression. The state government is commendably on the right track in tackling the issue.

Its commitment to see the early completion of infrastructure projects including the LRT on the island is beyond doubt and I fully support such efforts so as to significantly reduce the current traffic congestion. And I look forward to taking a ride in it myself one day.

Q3. That can happen if the Federal Government would take over as a federal project and to use the federal budget. Do you think this would be better for it to be fast-tracked?

Yes indeed, which was what the Federal Government had already thankfully done, with the Prime Minister’s announcement during the Hari Raya gathering in Permatang Pauh on May 6. I am also happy to see the evolving close federal-state relations and cooperation conducive to the early implementation of more socio-economic projects in Penang for the benefit of the people.

Q4. We have a Prime Minister who is a Penangite. How much would this help Penang?

Having a Penangite as a Prime Minister is no doubt a plus for the state. The current Prime Minister I am sure knows the inherent areas of enhancement needed in Penang having been personally involved with the development of Penang previously in his various leadership capacities.

I believe he is also aware of Penang’s significant contribution to the country’s GDP. Penangites are naturally proud of him with growing expectations that much more can be done by him for the state now that he is the Prime Minister.

Of course he has the entire nation to also think about. However, directing his attention a bit more towards Penang in terms of priority and budgetary allocation for truly deserving socio-economic projects in the state would not, I believe, open him to unfair criticisms of being unduly biased.

Q5. Water is a crucial commodity. More so for Penang as an industrial state. It needs sustainable water supply from Kedah and Perak. How can Penang convince these two states that the growth of the Penang mainland will benefit the two states economically?

Sustainable water supply is indeed crucial to ensure the daily needs of the people as well as for the agricultural production and industrial development of the state. For most countries water has become a security issue. We need to look at the larger picture in this case. Geographical factors have made it important for Penang to rely on both Kedah and Perak for its long-term water supply needs.

Penang has made its position known to the two states with the hope that the supply of raw water issue could be resolved in a win-win manner. Available data indicates that there is more than enough raw water to be shared by the two states with Penang without simply allowing it to wastefully flow into the sea.

I am confident that wisdom would prevail ultimately and that Penang’s commitment to address the water supply issue would receive the support and positive intervention of the Federal Government in the larger interest of the country.

With the evolving dialogue involving commercial incentives and other sustainable and technological measures, hopefully a viable solution will present itself in the not too distant future.

Q6. There is the upcoming RM4bil Penang Technology Park in Bertam. How important is this project to the state and the business community on the mainland. What can we expect from this technology park?

The park is highly significant for the state, especially in terms of accelerating the economy and reinforcing its position as a leading hub for technology and innovation.

I believe the park will help even out some of the development in Penang and hopefully reduce the influx of people that travel to the island daily. A technology park is the way forward for the younger and more IOT-inclined individuals to spur business and innovation to move the state to a higher income bracket.

The project is expected to create new job opportunities, attract both foreign and domestic investments and create a more conducive environment for businesses to thrive. The establishment of the park will no doubt complement Malaysia’s effort to promote the development of the northern region.

Notwithstanding the competition faced with similar parks established in other states, I am confident of the success of the park in attracting high quality investments for the benefit of the state.

Q7. Penang prides itself for its many heritage houses and buildings. It is a state which is rich in history and unlike other states, Penang has long been exposed to foreign influences as a port city. How do we balance the uniqueness of the state and physical development?

The many heritage houses and buildings in Penang have been a major attraction for visitors to Penang. Their preservation is extremely important as part of the state’s cultural and historical legacy and in providing a unique sense of place and identity that sets Penang apart from other states.

The state government is committed to preserving the iconic past by creating new offerings that appeal to the current generation. As with all cities with heritage houses and buildings, Penang too needs to strike a proper balance between preservation and physical development.

I believe this can be achieved by adopting sustainable development practices that take into account the unique cultural and historical context of Penang, preserving and restoring heritage buildings and sites and incorporating them into new development projects to increase their popularity and sustainability.

I am glad to see the GWHI under the state government committing itself to preserving the iconic past as well as creating new offerings that appeal to the current generation.

Q8. Penang has the distinction of producing the country’s first newspaper, the Prince of Wales Gazette, and the Kwong Wah Yit Poh newspaper is the oldest surviving Chinese newspaper with its masthead written by Sun Yat Sen, the founder of modern China. It also has a thriving and outspoken NGO culture. Civil society has long existed in Penang but there is also always a degree of tension between some NGOs and the state government on how Penang should move forward. What are your thoughts?

Penang should be proud of having a thriving and sometimes outspoken NGO culture, reflecting the state’s strong civil society and commitment to promoting democratic values and good governance.

NGOs play an important role in advocating and protecting the interests of different segments of society and providing a platform for citizens to voice their opinions on specific issues of common concern, and should be allowed to operate within the confine of our laws and regulations.

I believe it is normal for NGOs to voice opinions on certain issues that differ from the state government and which can lead to unavoidable tension and conflict. But what is important is to create a conducive environment to enable both sides to engage in constructive dialogues to bridge whatever differences that arise in the interest of reaching an amicable settlement for the benefit of the people in Penang.

Q9. Let’s talk about sports. As a long time football fan, who grew up in the 1960s, I have seen the best of Penang football. We had Shukor Salleh and the Bakar brothers, for example. I am heartbroken to see the decline of football standards in the state. Your views?

I must say you are not alone in being heartbroken at the state of Penang’s football currently. I have been following the development of our football, in particular the games played by the Penang FC which no doubt could afford to do much better. But as you are aware, the standard of any FC in Malaysia today is very much a function of the funding made available to the team. And this has indeed been a major constraint in Penang that need to be seriously addressed.

More efforts need to be given to attracting the corporate sector to support the game through more generous contributions to our FC and the overall development of football in the State.

We need to be more creative in attracting corporate sponsors to ensure that their investments bring the necessary benefits to their brands and to make such sponsorship more sustainable. We certainly need to bring back more Shukor Sallehs and the Bakar brothers into the Penang FC as to be more transformative in the long run whilst being realistic enough to realise that there is only so much that can be done by the state government itself.

Personally, as a proponent of the youth, I strongly feel the root cause to developing a world class team begins at the grassroots level. We need to look at undertaking more youth development programmes as implemented in other countries to halcyon standards.

Hopefully more can be done to develop the necessary infrastructure for the young to enable their natural talent to flourish and achieve greatness.

Q10. You spend time on your physical workout and can actually cycle to the mainland. Can we hear a personal account of your exercise regime?

Let me say in all frankness that anyone desiring to assume the post of TYT needs to be physically and mentally strong to be able to meet the vigorous demands and obligations of the job.

This post is certainly not for the weak-hearted. You need to be active and on the move if you hope to meet and listen to Penangites of all corners as expected by the people.

Perception matters in how you preserve the dignity of the office and carry out your day-to-day functions. I am always conscious of the need to strike a balance between working in the office and spending time on some physical workouts including cycling which I enjoy, especially during the weekends when time permits, together with my son, daughter and granddaughter if possible. My only regret in this regard is not being able to do so as often as I should.

Q11. But living in Penang, which offers the best food, it must be difficult! What are your favourite food choices?

Although incredibly biased, I am proud to say that Penang is undisputedly the ‘epitome of Malaysia’s finest food and chefs’. Penang has so much to offer and at reasonable prices too that one can easily be spoilt for choice.

The great thing about it is exactly that, enjoying a different meal at different times for just about any occasion! But asking me about my favourite food is like asking me who is my favourite child! I have actually been advised about overindulging myself. The challenge is always to learn to eat moderately and at my age, food is best taken in moderation and with less sugar.

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