Stepping down: Dr Lim giving a speech at the council meeting at City Hall, Penang.
Dr. Lim tells why he walked
GEORGE TOWN: The only city councillor here who dared to go against the state government does not want to continue after his term ends on New Year’s Eve because he is disappointed with the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).
Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) said he no longer wanted to serve because “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.
“I will remain active as a Penang Forum committee member. I will still speak up on public issues.
“I believe people in public offices should serve for limited terms. Perhaps it will take a fresher mind with new ideas and approaches to make things happen for the better,” he said.
Dr Lim, who has served as a councillor since 2011, also believed that the council should allow the public to observe council committee meetings.
“The committee meetings are where decisions are made. If people are watching the deliberations, then public scrutiny can help temper political interests,” he added.
The press and the public are allowed to witness full council meetings, but Dr Lim said these were formal meetings to confirm matters that had been decided upon.
Dr Lim is the sole city councillor out of 24 with no political ties. A former professor and international banker, he was nominated to MBPP by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of numerous NGOs in the state.
His appointment stemmed from the current government’s 2008 move to swear in councillors representing NGOs. Four such councillors were initially appointed but since 2012, although the official NGO councillors still stand at four, only Dr Lim is known to come strictly from civil society.
He made his maverick nature clear less than a year after being a councillor when he joined a group of 30 people to publicly protest against his own council outside City Hall months after being appointed.
In March this year, he was involved in a heated exchange with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during an NGO dialogue session over parking woes, road-widening projects and the council enforcement’s car-towing figures.
In July, Dr Lim criticised the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and suggested an alternative better, cheaper, faster transport master plan.
A month before that, he sent a letter to Unesco expressing fears that the PTMP would jeopardise George Town’s World Heritage Site status.
Throughout his tenure in MBPP, Dr Lim has been called a liar, back-stabber and betrayer of the state government by local politicians. NGO members, however, hold him in high regard.
“Nobody can live up to Mah Hui’s standard as an example of integrity and representing public interest without fear or favour.
“He had been talking about stepping down for some time.
“Maybe he needs to take a break and we hope he will accept the post again,” said fellow Penang Forum member Khoo Salma Nasution, whom the group has nominated to take Dr Lim’s place.
Former DAP member Roger Teoh, who was initially at loggerheads with Dr Lim over the PTMP, said it was a shame that local politicians had painted him in a negative light.
“Something was not right about how the state was reacting to Dr Lim’s Unesco letter. I felt he was unfairly labelled as treasonous. If his concerns were heard internally, would he have needed to write to Unesco?” he asked.
Teoh had initially supported the PTMP and openly criticised Dr Lim.
He changed his stand after doing a Masters thesis research on car use in 100 cities around the world, which led him to resign from DAP recently.
Sources: Arnold Loh The Star/Asian News Network
Dr Lim Mah Hui to make way for new blood
GEORGE TOWN: Outspoken Penang Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) will not seek another term as a Penang Island City councillor.
“I have declined to be nominated for the reappointment as a councillor next year. I have served six years.
“I think I have served long enough and we need new blood and new people to take up the cause,” he said at the council’s monthly meeting yesterday.
He later told a press conference that Penang Forum suggested Khoo Salma Nasution, the forum’s steering committee member and Penang Heritage Trust vice-president, as his replacement.
“We have nominated Khoo as the representative for Penang Forum and NGOs. We will have to wait for the state executive council to decide on the nominations.
“Nobody told me to step down. It was my own decision. Penang Forum wanted me to continue but I told them I had done more than my share.
“I will remain in the Penang Transport Council,” he said.
Dr Lim, however, said he would continue to be vocal and speak out.
He urged the Penang Island City Council to open its meetings to the public to promote greater transparency and participation.
“Section 23 of the Local Govern-ment Act 1976 gives the local council the power to do so.
“Members of the public can also be invited to sit in, possibly as observers, at the council’s committee and sub-committee meetings where decisions are made.
“This is the challenge I put forward. If they are truly taking about change and a new type of government, then they should do that,” said Dr Lim.
Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, heritage conservation and the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan. – The Star
Developers unafraid of Penang authorities, says activist group
GEORGE TOWN, March 16 — Developers in Penang no longer fear flouting the law as the authorities seem to be “toothless” in taking punitive actions, an activist group claimed.
Referring to the latest hill-clearing incident on Bukit Gambir and similar past incidents, Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) coordinator Yan Lee said the developers knew they could easily get away with illegal earthworks or structural demolitions.
This was because the state government and the municipal council were not prepared to take stern punitive action against them, he said in a text message yesterday.
The council has come under fire in the past few days after a developer defied a stop-work order to carry out earthworks on the hill slope of Bukit Gambir in Gelugor.
CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau, commonly referred to as “Botak Hill”, as examples of the developers’ fearlessness.
Yan Lee claimed that the developers were fearless because they knew a contribution to the state heritage fund (SHF) “can do magic”.
A check by Malay Mail yesterday showed the developer had stopped work for two days on the hill slope, located behind the Gambier Heights apartments.
The council had issued the stop-work order on Thursday.
The hill was cleared to build a temporary 500m-long access road and fencing for a housing project site on the hill slope.
Trees were chopped down to make way for the road, while a lorry and an excavator were parked at the construction site.
According to some residents, the earthworks began early this month.
The residents also complained of pollution caused by dust, and noise caused by the frequent movement of vehicles.
Traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow called on the council to take stern action against the developer for “jumping the gun”.
He said the developer should have waited for the council to issue a commencement of work certificate.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia urged the state authorities to stop the developer from clearing the hill, and to implement firm policies to protect the hills and greenery in the state.
It warned against a repeat of the “Botak Hill” incident.
An MPPP councillor also said the developers had no respect for the authorities.
“Even if the council were to haul them up for violating the law, they know they will get away with a token fine,” the councillor, who asked not to be named, said.
He cited a previous case where a developer completed a housing project despite the case for carrying out illegal earthworks pending in court.
Sources: Athi Shanka, MalayMail online