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22 February 2024

Malaysia's opposition takes over in Penang

By Agencies

Malaysia's opposition was sworn in to power Tuesday in Penang, one of the nation's richest states, and swiftly announced plans to dismantle controversial race-based discrimination policies.


Lim Guan Eng, head of the Democratic Action Party, was appointed chief minister after a stunning performance in weekend polls which handed Penang and three other states to a three-party opposition alliance. Lim immediately targeted the New Economic Policy, which was introduced in the early 1970s to bridge the wealth gap between the Muslim Malays who dominate the population and the ethnic Chinese who are successful in business.


"We want to run the state government administration free from the New Economic Policy that only breeds cronyism, corruption and systematic inefficiency," he told reporters.


"Instead, we advocate a stakeholders' economy for all, based on the principle of shared prosperity in an equitable manner," he said.


Lim said all government contracts would be conducted through an open-tender system, unlike the practice of the previous administration. The new procedure takes effect immediately.


"To show transparency, information about the tender bids will be uploaded to an internet portal for all to see," he said.


Lim also raised the prospect of scrapping a controversial MYR25-billion (Dh28.6bn) development project on Penang Island that was proposed by Barisan Nasional. Locals oppose the project out of environmental concerns. The new chief minister said the project had aroused "much concern among the people in Penang" and that "scrapping it is definitely an option".


In a gesture of gratitude to voters, Lim cancelled all outstanding parking tickets and fines for illegal street vendors.


Penang, styled as Malaysia's "Silicon Valley", is home to the manufacturing operations of electronic giants like Intel and Sony and the only state to have a majority of ethnic Chinese voters. Ethnic Chinese and Indian voters led the electoral charge against the coalition in weekend polls, depriving it of a two-thirds majority in federal parliament for the first time in four decades.


The minority communities were concerned about the rising "Islamisation" of Malaysia, and angry over the government's refusal to withdraw or reform the New Economic Policy, which they criticise as outdated and unfair. (AFP)