By Mariam Mokhtar
The Pakatan Harapan government, in Putrajaya, is trying to cut costs, but the new Perak Menteri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, is doing the opposite. His job is not to build tourist attractions in Perak, which will become the equivalent of the White House, or Buckingham Palace, or The Palace of Versailles. These buildings are full of history, whilst Perak’s will be associated with profligacy.
So, why is the new MB, acting like an Umno-Baru stooge, who sells government assets because the sales are hugely profitable, and then lists umpteen reasons to justify the sales?
In early June, when it was alleged on social media that the former Menteri Besar, Zambry Abdul Kadir, had not moved out of the Menteri Besar’s official residence, denials were issued by both the outgoing Zambry, and the newly-installed Ahmad Faizal.
The Umno-Baru media machinery went into overdrive, issuing statements, which were reported by the major newspapers, dismissing the concerns, which I had written, in response to the many requests by worried Perakians.
Many casual observers felt that both MBs had over-reacted.
A brief explanation would have sufficed; stating that Zambry had been given a grace period of a few days to move from the official residence. Instead, he alleged that I had slandered him, whilst the new MB, issued a lengthy and clumsy statement claiming that the official residence was not habitable, because it was undergoing extensive renovations, which would take three months to complete.
Two and a half months later, on August 4, Ahmad Faizal told Bernama, that the MB’s official residence may be put up for sale.
The reasons were manifold:
The residence was unsuitable for occupation.
It lacked proper security.
The location was unsuitable.
He said, “Now several buildings are being erected around the house that it is no longer suitable for a menteri besar to stay, not just me but anyone in the future.
“I have informed the Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah about this matter.”
This is extraordinary. This is the first time, that many Perakians and Ipohites have heard that the residence is unsuitable for an MB; furthermore, why has he informed the sultan, before the matter has been debated in the state assembly?
Why did the state decide to renovate the residence, and then decide to sell it off? What is happening? They seem to be planning like headless chickens.
The real reason for this sale, lies in his following statement. He said that the value of the residential land was high and when sold, a number of projects could be implemented, such as “housing construction for all state executive councillors.” What does he mean by this?
He also claimed that the State Economic Planning Unit was considering various proposals, from various sources, for possible projects that would suit the area.
He said, “We will make sure, whatever will be decided, it will safeguard the state’s interests as well as to add value to the people of Perak.”
Haven’t Malaysians, been stung before, when state assets were sold-off to crony companies and the money siphoned into individuals’ pockets?
Shouldn’t the new MB and his administration try to regain the trust of the people, by telling us when corruption charges will be levelled against those who are alleged to have mismanaged MB Inc and the other quasi government bodies, which wasted several hundreds of millions of ringgits on projects which have failed?
What happened to all those promises, made before GE-14? Show us some results of the initial investigations into corruption proceedings, instead of alarming us with more waffle, stating that land is valuable and state assets will be sold to take advantage of the high prices?
Ahmad Faizal said that if a new official residence were to be built, it would be constructed beautifully and could be open to visitors to take pictures of the building as a memento.
Is he serious? With several issues plaguing the state, this is not what Perakians want to hear. What does he want? Grand mansions like those found in Tambun Heights? Or the one occupied by the former Chief Minister of Malacca? Has he seen the humble dwelling of the former MB of Kelantan, Nik Aziz Nik Mat?
Ahmad Faizal is a mentri besar whose job is to administer the state. He was not made an MB, to construct vanity projects, or be known for his self-aggrandisement. His job is to cut the wasteful spending in Perak. He should revamp the administration of the government and make it a slick, efficient and lean operating machine. Instead, we are told that a more beautiful building will be constructed, to house him and future MBs.
Who will pay for this grand experiment? Will the Perak taxpayer be forced to pay an inflated price, to a crony company, to build the new palace, when in actual fact, the true cost of the building will be a fraction of the final price?
Ahmad Faizal’s handling of the Manjoi fiasco, at the start of his term in office, was abominable. What happened to the investigation into the thugs who forced the shop assistants to remove alcohol from the shelves, in the shop? We cannot have legitimate businesses being targeted by extremists. If the truth be told, the men were bullies who used religion to intimidate the public and possibly, a rival business, in typical samseng style.
What is the MB doing about Orang Asli lands which were allegedly illegally handed to timber companies? What is he doing about the pollution of our rivers? How does he propose to tackle the drug taking among Perak youths? What is he going to do about the Mat Rempit menace, which is plaguing some roads in the nation? Will he continue to inject millions of ringgit into the white elephant, aka the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS)?
So, what is the new MB’s vision for Perak? How is he going to increase the revenue for the Perak coffers?
If he continues with his stunted view of progress and development in Perak, few Perakians who have migrated in search of better opportunities, will want to return to contribute to the well-being and future of the state. Get real, and get your priorities right, MB!