GEORGE TOWN, Nov 14 — Nine Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen left the legislative assembly today in protest after a motion they proposed against involving hill slope development was amended.
The Opposition assemblymen, led by state Opposition leader Datuk Jahara Hamid (BN — Teluk Air Tawar), walked out after a shouting match with Pakatan Harapan (PH) assemblymen over the motion against hill slope development in the state.
Datuk Muhamad Farid Saad (BN — Pulau Betong) had proposed a motion that the state government take responsibility for all hill slope development in the state.
He proposed that all hill slope development be immediately stopped until the developers prepare a water dispersal plan and a land and hill slope strengthening plan to submit together with its application for planning permission.
He also proposed that all approvals for development in hill areas be postponed until overall drainage plans for the areas are built, or if the developer gives a guarantee that they will take responsibility if floods occur after the development.
His proposal also included forbidding all hill slope projects on hills above 76 metres and that all approvals for developments must be in accordance with the state structural plan 2020.
However, Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon (PKR — Pantai Jerejak) stood up to propose amendments to Muhamad Farid’s motion.
“The first amendment is for the state and federal government work together to form a joint committee to handle the implications of climate changes [sic] together,” he read.
He also proposed that all developments in sensitive areas be reviewed by the joint committee so that all planning permission can be fully controlled and monitored.
He said the joint committee, with the technical support and expertise from all state and federal agencies, will conduct an audit on all development projects in Penang to ensure better enforcement of safety measures at construction sites.
The amendment also included that all developments on lands above 76 metres will not be approved in accordance with the Penang Structure Plan 2020 that was gazetted in 2007.
Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang (PKR — Bukit Tambun) then called for a vote from the House to accept the proposed amendments and all PH assemblymen present stood up.
Muhammad Farid then stood up to object against the amendment, claiming his motion was “dipintas dan diciplak” (intercepted and copied).
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (DAP — Air Putih) then told him that the amendments were in accordance to House standing orders, so he could not make accusations that his motion was copied as it was merely amended.
“I take back the words. I still do not agree to my motion being amended. Why must it be amended?” Muhammad Farid asked.
Jahara also stood up to voiced her disappointment that the Opposition’s motion, which was approved to be debated in the House, was amended.
Lim then told Jahara not to use this as an excuse to “run away” as she had yet to show proof of her earlier accusations against the state government that recipients of the state’s one-off payments needed to register as party members.
Muhammad Farid continued to voice his anger over the amendments made to his original motion. Law told him that the motion was accepted in accordance with standing orders and the amendments were also in accordance with the same standing orders.
The Opposition front then stormed out of the House while Lim stood up, warning them not to leave.
“Don’t run away now. Cowards. They are running away now,” he said as several other backbenchers joined in while the Opposition assemblymen ignored him and walked out.
After the nine of them walked out, Law told the House that he did not block the rights of any assemblyman in the House.
“The motion was approved and debated in accordance with the standing orders while many other motions were rejected, some even by the state government,” he said.
The amended motion was later passed after a brief debate, although the Opposition did not re-enter the House.
Later, outside in a press conference, Muhammad Farid said this was not the first time that the state government used their majority to amend a motion submitted by the state Opposition.
“It is not wrong according to the House standing orders, but it is morally wrong,” he said.
He said the motion he submitted was to hold the state government responsible for all developments in the state and yet, the state government had amended it to include the BN federal government.
“Approvals for developments are under the state government, not the federal government. Why must they include the federal government into the motion?” he said.
Jahara accused the state government of using its majority in the legislature to oppress the minority.
“We are bringing the voices of the people to the legislature and they have amended it to make it theirs,” she said.
There are only 10 BN assemblymen, while there are 29 Pakatan Harapan assemblymen and one PAS assemblyman in Penang.
Noordin Ahmad (BN — Bayan Lepas) was not present at today’s sitting, leaving only nine BN assemblymen.