Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gerakan and Umno... the Opposition in Penang

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Gerakan and Umno... the Opposition in Penang
What could be wrong for the Chief Minister to double up as the Tourism & Investment Ambassador for Penang when he goes on trade and overseas missions to sell the state as the choice destination for the overseas markets -- and all expenses paid for by the host countries?

But our Barisan Nasional people just miss the point. Obviously, they are not so used to being in the Opposition.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng delivering a keynote address at the Asia Pacific Tourism Investment Conference (APTIC) and Exposition 2008 in Seoul, October 30, titled: "Sustainable Tourism Development in a Heritage Environment — the Penang Story"... LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

After having helmed the Penang state for 34 years as a coalition since 1974 till 2008, there is enough historical proof for me to believe that the Gerakan-led Barisan Nasional has been a lame force in generating ideas and future-looking policies and governance. They had good people around but devils rule because good men did nothing.

On the other hand, I had also thought that, by relegating them into the political minority in the state -- the whole bunch of them, Koh Tsu Koon's Gerakan included -- they will lick their GE2008 wounds and perform better as the been-there, done-that type of Opposition to do the larger good for Penangites.

But I was wrong, dead wrong. Old dogs could not learn new tricks. Some in the likes of the Umno's ball-carrying ex-MP, Huan Cheng Guan, are a polkitical scoundrel good at plainly anjing menyalak bukit.

Huan is symbolic of how the present Gerakan senior leadership the sucks up to Umno for life-support.

For the record, Huan is an esteemed Vice President of Gerakan elected by its national delegates and yet nowadays, at least officially, he lowers himself to earn his keeps as an office-boy for the BN Back-benchers Club under the title of executive secretary. Huan should have shown publicly that his livelihood is not hinged to the Umno gravy-train.

This time, he couldn't wait for the Penang state government investment-inducing trip to South Korea (October 28 - November 1, including two days of travelling to-and-fro) to complete its course and hastily he asked: “The Koreans are now busy rescuing their own companies; do you think they have time for us? (Chief Minister) Lim Guan Eng should take care of his own backyard and ensure that everything is in order before leaving the country.”

And Huan's masters in Umno joined in not a minute too late. Quote The Star on the day Huan went to Press:

Penang Umno liaison committee deputy chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah questioned the need for such a big delegation, saying the largest entourage the previous state administration had ever handled was only 25 people.

“The DAP criticised the previous Barisan Nasional administration for allegedly not doing anything right but now they are keeping quiet when spending taxpayers’ money.

“What has happened to their much talked about Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) system? Has Guan Eng ever told the people that he travelled Business Class or First Class whenever he goes on official overseas trips?” he asked.

Verily, Umno leaders in Penang used to travel on quota basis with the former chief minister who is now persona non-grata to Penang Umno itself. The records in Penang state government must have expenses records to support this, you just need to search for the proof.

To these Umno goons, overseas travels means First Class cabin, and the R&R programmes. Kind of a (more) cuti (less) sambil belajar quota system and rewards by any standard and opportunity.

But not for us under the present government. We travelled on restricted category of economy class flights, which means the lowest fare possible, and we stayed in budget-class hotel with no shampoo and shower gel supplied. It cost about US$65 per room not when the going price around the metropolitan COEX region of Seoul is around US$400 per room night.

危机 (wei ji) -- Looking out for silver linings

I am not sure if Huan's MBA is studied for or was bought from a lousy busines school, but he showed his naivette when he uttered: "The Koreans are now busy rescuing their own companies; do you think they have time for us?"

Indeed, a South Korean minister expressed his surprise that Penang was bold in looking out for opportunities within crisis times. The Chinese phrase "wei ji" ( 危机), which was inferred to by Korea's First Deputy Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture, precisely denotes that there are ample opportunities in the midst of crisis.

Lim Guan Eng leading his Penang team to pay a courtesy call on Korea's Ministry of Tourism, Sports & Tourism... LensaPress by Jeff Ooi
There you are Huan, how much you understood the age-old Asian psyche and wisdom of modern management.

In Korea, we specifically looked for opportunities in selling MM2H tourism-related products, investments in technology sectors, seeding new openings in the hospitality and service industries, and executed several initiatives in media and trade relations.


History is the perfect chronicle of truth. While Huan was rotting away his opportunity as the former MP for Batu Kawan (2004 - 2008), this government delivers when he failed to get done during his time. On October 30, a MoU to develop an international-class golf course resort on a piece of 200-acre land in Batu Kawan was sealed between the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and DK ENC of South Korea, which has been instrument in developing a 52-hole golf resort in Hanoi.

The development project worth an investment of US$100 million will be completed by 2011. We hope to attract Korean golfers and holiday-makers besides providing jobs and boosting local consumption in the Penang state's economy.

Guan Eng witnessing of the singing of the MoU between the PDC represented by its general manager Datuk Rosli Jaaffar, and Mr Jang Chin-Hyuk of DK ENC.

Guan Eng proposing a toast to fellow Korean investors for stronger business ties with Penang in the near future... LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

Back in Malaysia, the local press recorded that the signing of the MoU for the RM350mil (US$100mil) golf course in Batu Kawan is testament of South Korean investors’ confidence in Penang’s future.

The MoU signing ceremony was attended by the chief executives of the two foremost TV stations in Korea, the MBC which produced the immensely successful costumed series Dae-chang-gum, and the SBC.


High-end technology continues to be our key focus to replace the labour intensive LVO (Large Volume Output manufacturing industries that had been showing critical signs of lost lustre before we booted out the Tsu Koon administration in GE2008.

In between, we also took time off to visit two key technology entities while we were promoting Penang iin Korea. Apart from the courtesy calls, we made sure the Chief Minister has close-door frank talks with the head honchos -- a schedule purposefully drawn up months in advance.

However, due to competitive reasons, I am not in a position to disclose critical information about these visits.

The official visit to Samsung Electronics HQ in Suwon. On the right is Samsung Group Malaysia President, Datuk Lee Sang Bai

H.D. Lee (4th from right), president of B. Braun Asia Pacific, greets the Penang team at its Korean HQ... LensaPress photos by Jeff Ooi


There has been much press about Penang setting its eyes on a world-class facilities that can house modern-day meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) events. We visited the senior management of COEX, Korea's foremost convention and exposition managers, to collate input for our Penang plan.

The Penang team was warmly received by Mr Park Chong-Man, the senior executive vice president of COEX


Our first visit to South Korea in May stunned us that visibility of Penang as a superb destination for tourism and investment was least understood by the Koreans. In fact South Koreans, especially the golfers and honeymooning newly-weds, are fondly closer to and more familiar with Kota Kinabalu as their choice destination compared to Penang. Look, how badly Penang has been marketed all these years!

Guan Eng took time to engage the local media in order to "sell" Penang to the Koreans.

Engaging the print media in Seoul
One more interesting news is that the Chinese community, predominantly comprising immigrants from the neighbouring Shandung province of People's Republic of China, has reached its second and third generations as neutralised residents in South Korea.

I know of one of them who was instrumental in creating the Seoul-Kota Kinabalu route for the tourism industry there, and he happens to be a vice president of the Korean Chinese Chamber of Commerce. A courtesy call and forging of networking is definitely a worthy investment.

A token of warm friendship in the form of "Penang in Snapshots", from Guan Eng to the KCCC... LensaPress photos by Jeff Ooi


Having been involved in the planning and execution of the trade mission, I personally am convinced that a private sector working closely hand-in-hand with the state government in foreign trade missions will garner a lot of confidence among overseas investors who have heard of this CAT (Competency, Accountability, Transparency) government that differentiates from the corruption and cronyism-infested government of the past.

This is demonstrated by the active participation of enterprising private entities active in Penang, namely Property developers Eastern & Oriental Bhd and E&O Hotels, SP Setia Bhd, Hunza Properties Bhd, Ideal Property Intelligence Sdn Bhd and the Penang Health Association. They joined hands as integral components of the Penang Pavilion organised by InvestPenang.

Guan Eng playing the role of Penang's Tourism & Investment Ambassador at the InvestPenang pavilion at APTIC & Expo 2008

Penang's Tourism & Investment Ambassador at the E&O Booth at APTIC. Looking on from right are E&O Group Chief Executive Terry Tham and E&O Hotel General Manager Michael Saxon

Again, Guan Eng playing the role of Penang's Tourism & Investment Ambassador at the Hunza-Paragon Booth at APTIC. Looking on at the left is Daisy Ooi, executive director from Hunza Berhad... LensaPress photo by Jeff Ooi

Besides attracting investors from Korea, our key objective is to promote Penang as the choice location for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, a long-term effort initiated by Tourism Malaysia.

I hope Gerakan and Umno should stop insulting our private sector by accusing them of wasting taxpayers' money, because their combined 42-member delegation was paid for through their own pockets. Huan and Rashid indeed should apologise for accusing and insulting the private sector that had wanted to cooperate and collaborate with the new Penang state government.

On the finale evening in Seoul, we sat through with the head-honchos of these private corporations with joined us in the trip, and we came to a consensus that -- remember, Guan Eng and all of us are committed to kill any bribery attempts like those prevalent in the BN government -- we have no difficulties in working hand-in-hand in marketing Penang to the outside world as an ideal place for second home.

In this Korean trip, we booked a pavilion at the Asia Pacific Tourism Investment Conference (APTIC) and Expo 2008 in Seoul, whereas Guan Eng was put on a hectic schedule, including presenting a keynote address targetting property investors and the tourism-related service industries, entitled Sustainable Tourism Development in a Heritage Environment — the Penang Story.

Guan Eng appeared alongside representative speakers from France, Russia and Hong Kong-based Indonesian enterprise. To be CAT about it, his travel and accommodation expenses were paid for by the host, Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO).

Multi-pronged objectives in one go

In the Press, this trade mission to South Korea has been well-accounted for several days ago (please check The Edge Financial Daily and Bernama, both on October 28).

To put things in the right perspective, I gave an interview to The Star yesterday in my capacity as a member of the Board of Directors at InvestPenang, the one-stop investment promotion agency owned by the Penang state government.

I was also approached by Nanyang Siang Pau, the only Chinese business daily in Malaysia, for an exclusive interview to summarise the salient points for this multi-pronged trade mission. It will be published tomorrow, November 5, so please grab a copy.

Posted by Jeff Ooi on November 4, 2008 10:32 AM | Permalink

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