On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Being suspended is punishment enough

For now, Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Kramat) and Tan Cheng Liang
(Jawi) are not entitled to enjoy the benefits and support of the MCA as
independent representatives.

More hurting to their self-esteem would be the sitting
arrangements at the State Assembly – they would likely have to sit with the
opposition members.

While some politicians have continuously called for the
two to be expelled, the decision to suspend them indefinitely is possibly the
most practical option.

If a fixed suspension was made, it may not satisfy some
Barisan leaders who reckon that a harsher punishment should be meted out.

Let's not be too quick in calling for their sacking. It
should be noted that to be suspended indefinitely, the two Penang MCA leaders
could still harbour hopes of being accepted into the MCA. That is only possible
if they abide by the rules of the coalition.

They can be sure that their actions, particularly at the
State Assembly, will be closely watched by Barisan leaders, including the Prime
Minister and his deputy.

If the two were to be expelled, the MCA would have more
difficulty in influencing them.

There are some politicians who feel that sacking the two
would send a message to other parties, arguing that the structure of Barisan is
of utmost importance, but others may simply want it for political expediency
and to make the MCA less vocal.

Amidst the controversy, we seem to have forgotten that
Barisan has lost out because it now has two representatives less.

The message of the duo's suspension is loud and clear
-Barisan will not tolerate any form of dissent among its ranks. To disagree is
one thing but to be openly defiant is unacceptable.

Component parties must understand that they rely on one

Although Barisan assemblymen were elected because of
concerted efforts by all component parties, the popularity of these
personalities are equally important factors, even if we feel that there is no
shortage of people aspiring to be Barisan candidates.

Penang Island
is a small place and the popularity of a politician among the grassroots does
make a difference. Many young people may not have heard of C.Y. Choy but the
former Socialist Front mayor retained the Pengkalan Kota state seat for several
terms as an independent candidate.

Gerakan politicians, in their white short-sleeved shirts,
are known for their humble approach and ability to interact with the people
while their MCA counterparts are seen as grassroots workers moving around their
constituencies on motorcycles.

Penangites expect their assemblymen to speak up for them.
That explains why the bulk of active non-government organisations such as the
Consumer Association of Penang and Aliran come from the state.

Boo Chang and Cheng Liang obviously irked the state
Gerakan leaders who must have felt that they went overboard in their criticism.
Then, there is the political equation between MCA and Gerakan.

While the two politicians have been punished, the PORR
issue – the root cause of the controversy – still remains. Penangites must
accept the fact that their island needs a traffic dispersal scheme.

It cannot be denied that driving in Penang
is a nightmare and the problems are piling up every day. For a project of such proportions,
houses would naturally have to be demolished to make way.

Penangites, in general, have no quarrel with traffic
dispersal projects but they want more details, including how toll will be
collected and the extent of the socio-economic impact.

It would help allay the people's apprehension if more
information is forthcoming, especially now that the state government has
admitted it would be one of the most expensive traffic projects. Penangites
cannot be blamed if they fear that the financial burden would eventually be
passed to them as users.

If the state government feels that it need not take a
populist approach on the PORR because the long-term benefits are more
important, then it should adopt a more pro-active approach.

First, it needs to win the support of a large number of
the Barisan assemblymen and, second, find out why a large section of Penangites
are not comfortable with the project.

The Penang government should take
a leaf from other state leaders. In Selangor, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir
Toyo went to Puchong to speak to residents who had protested against the
building of a market on their football field – and scrapped the project on the

In Johor, Umno politicians helped 10,000 residents,
mostly wage earners, who had received notices to vacate their homes to make way
for a new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex.

And the Cabinet relocated the RM1.5bil garbage
incinerator following protests from residents.

In the case of the PORR, the affected residents have
approached Barisan assemblymen, both from Gerakan and the MCA, because they
feel only Barisan has the clout to respond positively.

That is the best compliment Penang Barisan can have – and
the coalition must live up to the expectations of their voters.