Friday, December 27, 2013

Pardon me, can you please apologise again?

Link to MSN Malaysia News

Jahara must be deaf to request a second apology from Lim Guan Eng.

Malaysia's opposition leader and Penang state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (© BAZUKI MUHAMMAD\Newscom\RTR)

Far from being satisfied with Penang Chief Minister’s prompt apology for calling Jahara Hamid a grandmother, she is now threatening legal action within a week if Lim Guan Eng did not apologise for a second time. The Telok Ayer Tawar State Assemblyman and Penang Opposition Leader must indeed be hard of hearing to demand a second apology.

Jahara had earlier drawn comparison between two different locations in Penang to support her argument that illegal Malay hawkers were being unfairly treated by the State Government. This would have resulted in instigating racial tension if the matter was not refuted immediately, to which the Chief Minister called Jahara a ‘racist grandmother’.

Telok Ayer Tawar Pakatan Rakyat coordinator, Norhayati Jaafar confirmed that the Malay stalls operating without licenses in Jahara’s constituency especially at Pantai Bersih are still operating their business without interference from the enforcement officers, contrary to what Jahara claimed.

“As far as I know, the Malay hawkers are still conducting their businesses in Telok Ayer Tawar and there are no intentions to do otherwise,” she said.

While Jahara may be crying wolf and entangled in her own web of deception, Penang enforcement officers are mostly caught in between carrying out their duties and appeasing a large number of illegal operators who unabashedly occupy idle land to carry out their businesses.

Tale of a Malay trader at Pantai Jerejak

Juninah and six other Malay hawkers operate without licences by the seaside near Bayan Mutiara in Bayan Baru. The site is now earmarked for land reclamation and the business owners have received notices to clear the area to make way for further development. These business owners have also requested the State Government to relocate them elsewhere.

Maybe the Penang State Government should help look into the problems faced by Malay traders. Tricky problems as such must be dealt with care and caution so as not to be accused as being discriminating against the Malays or being seen as setting precedence by negotiating with illegal traders.

Santai Bahtera, a pretty beachfront café located next to the Penang Island Pulau Jerejak Jetty has an amazing view of the Penang Bridge. To date, the café has permanent structures such as a surau, toilet and water facilities, electricity and even a stage.

“We are just earning a living but the State Government is chasing us away with development,” lamented Juninah.
Juninah had sought help from various authorities but all her cries for help are not being taken seriously.

“We admit we are illegally conducting our business here but we do hope that the State Government will help us by relocating us to another site,” she added, claiming that she recently spent RM140,000 renovating the place.

Apology not good enough

Word is out that Hj. Rashid Hasnon, Deputy Chief Minister 1 for Penang, who is also the State Assemblyman for Pantai Jerejak had given an explanation to Juninah for being unable to help her maintain her business site as the area will soon be condoned off to make way for bicycle tracks and land reclamation. However, efforts are still underway to help Juninah and the others achieve an amicable solution.

Apologies and explanations are always never good enough.

Good governance is all about making the right call at the right time. The State Government has the authority to allow or disallow, make legal or stand firm on matters concerning illegal occupation of idle land.

The only setback is that if any precedence was made, many other instances of illegal traders seeking the same compensation and treatment may be expected in the future or else the State Government may risk being accused as being unfair.

Pardon me, can you please say that again?

Apart from Jahara’s threat to sue the Chief Minister of Penang if Lim Guan Eng did not apologize for a second time within a week, the issue of being called a ‘racist grandmother’ remains firmly wedged as a racial issue – one that is distinguishably ambiguous as enforcement officers are expected to carry out their duties only towards non-Muslims.

Jahara claims that only stalls of a certain race were demolished. Perhaps Jahara can provide a fair solution for all illegal traders and without prejudice too. In any case, if she is only looking after the interest of Malay and Bumiputera traders, then she would have just affirmed and stamped the ‘racist’ label on herself.

As a grandmother of seven grandchildren, there is no reason why she should not be called a grandmother if she was proud to be one at all.

** This is the writer’s personal opinion.
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