Letter by Carolyn Khor, Assistant to YB Teh Yee Cheu and Communications Chief for Wanita Keadilan dated 4 April 2016
The Speaker of the State Assembly wields great powers bestowed upon him through the state constitution which governs the house. The approval or rejection of a motion lies, ultimately, in the hands of the Speaker, who decides whether or not the matter reaches the State Assembly for debate during sittings.
Last week, YB Teh Yee Cheu, the state assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga submitted a motion to the Speaker’s office and the State Secretariat’s office to limit the Chief Minister’s tenure to two terms, each being not more than 5 years. He reiterated that he was submitting the motion due to public interest and is ready to face consequences from his party, if any. He also cited Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago as having practise two-term limits. Although the Westminster parliamentary system, which the Malaysian parliament is modeled after, has no fixed-term limit, unlike the United States, YB Teh opined that the State Assembly does have the powers to make the change possible. If the State Constitutional committee, which is headed by the Chief Minister agrees to study the matter in detail, have it refined, made into a bill, then debated during the State Assembly, the two-term limit might just be realised.
The Chief Minister, first of all, should not feel threatened by this two-term limit. It is common knowledge, that such gallant proposals are a herculean task, requiring no less than a few years to even a decade for it to be ready. Of course, this will also largely depend on when the incumbent CM is ready to move on to even higher grounds. But, during this time, it will bode well, both for the people of Penang and also the CM to consider the two-term limit, for the following successors. The CM may in fact, leverage on this two-term proposal to recover from his diving popularity among the Penangites given the recent bad publicity. This would, effectively, be like killing two, or even three birds with one stone, much in the way how Penang has the penchant for being the first in most things.
It takes a lot of courage and will-power to convince the authorities to give up their hold on power. Power, like heroin or opium, is intoxicating. As Penangites, we deserve good policies and good governance and this includes curtailing excessive powers given by the people to a selected few, empowering them to be representatives of the people.
Is conscience banned in the State Assembly or does this signal an improper execution of power? In all fairness, important issues that are of public interest should be debated, nonetheless, and the proposal for the two-term limit should be approved too.
Last night, a DAP veteran member held a press conference to condemn YB Teh Yee Cheu for his actions. Futher to that,the veteran club was quoted as saying: “If he continue [sic] to behave like this and used by umno and show no remorse, he should resign as ADUN and quit the party.”
As YB Teh’s assistant, I strongly condemn the actions of the veteran club members as this is out of line. A state representative is elected by the electorates and that is something which should be respected. We should be supportive of the only voice in the state assembly that dares to voice out against the executives. If all we want are yes-men, then we do not need 'UBAH' anymore. ‘Toeing the party line’ does not work if voices of dissent are not allowed.
How unbecoming of all those who step forward to condemn YB Teh without understanding the larger picture. Justice, fairness, good judgment and freedom of speech has been silenced. How different is this administration from BN? We used to condemn BN for the same actions but now the DAP leadership in Penang is no different. We need to save Penang from the grips of autocratic leaders who can no longer differentiate right from wrong.
People ask, “Why not just concentrate toppling BN? Why should we accept someone who seems to go against the state government?”
The answer is simple: If nobody took up the role of speaking out within the coalition, we are subjecting ourselves to dictatorship. Do not shoot the messenger. We should push for freedom of speech. And at what cost? Only our conscience.
The proposal of having a two-term limit is a noble cause. As we all know, Taib Mahmud governed Sarawak for 33 years. This would have been different if someone had dared to propose a two-term limit such as what YB Teh did. Instead of accusing him of being disloyal or a traitor to the party, Penangites should realise that YB Teh's actions are merely as an ombudsman and a defender of public interest. He is simply carrying out his duties as a people's representative.
I am certain that the Speaker would do the right thing by the people of Penang, provided that he does not receive unsolicited advise from people who think that they have a right to decide on everything.
Assistant to YB Teh Yee Cheu
Communications Chief for Wanita Keadilan