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No. 4496 PP 2644/12/2008 (020369)

April 21, 2008


» Iraqi cleric warns of open war pg12

» Plucking a Latin beat pg24


by Opalyn Mok

PENANG: It was a day of firsts yesterday: Former Health Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon, who could have been chief minister had Barisan Nasional retained Penang, was appointed a director of the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and executive committee chairman of InvestPenang – PDC’s investment arm. Lee (top pic) is the first opposition member to sit on the boards of the state economic development corporation and its subsidiary. In Selangor, Teng Chang Khim (middle pic) was proposed as the first non-Malay speaker of the state assembly and Haniza Talha as first woman deputy speaker (page 2). Describing his decision to accept the posts as “non-political” but a way to contribute towards Penang’s development, Lee said he could provide “check and balance” from within the system, instead of outside. Speaking after a press conference by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who announced his appointments, the former Jelutong MP and Gerakan deputy secretary-general, stressed that he was still a Gerakan member. “I am taking this position only because I believe I can contribute as an ordinary citizen towards Penang’s development,” he said, adding that his position at InvestPenang was part-time and voluntary. Asked if his party will take any action against him for accepting the posts from a Pakatan Rakyat government, Lee said it should not be an issue as he had withdrawn from politics. He quit from all Gerakan posts at the end of last month. “As far as I am concerned, politics is history for me, and I make this decision as an ordinary citizen,” he said. “I can be a voice within the state government. Check and balance need not be outside but from within,” said Lee who was offered the positions a week ago. He took just a


Day of firsts

You pay – even if you don’t use ERL
by Terence Fernandez and R. Nadeswaran

few days to accept the offer and even “reported for work” at InvestPenang last Friday. Asked if he had any regrets about his decision which could mean an end to his political career in Gerakan, Lee said he had none. “I do not know what I will do in future, but for now, I am only hoping to contribute towards the development of Penang,” he said. Asked if this decision was a tough one to make, Lee said if he had stuck to partisan politics, he would be a very difficult decision, but since he had resigned from all posts, it was an easy decision. “This is just another stage in my life, and I do not regret leaving my political life behind me,” said Lee, who contested for the Machang Bubuk state seat on March 8 and had


been in the running as one of three potential successors to former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. Earlier, Lim said the state executive council approved the appointments on Wednesday. “We feel that Lee can support the state government in pushing the economic development of the state,” he said, adding that the state government welcomed anyone who was sincere about helping the state government, regardless of religion, race or political background. Lim also announced that Datuk Ho Mooi Ching was retained as state Appeals Board chairman and Tan Sri Khalid Ahmad Sulaiman as its vice-chairman.

... The flame of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is received by Olympic Council of Malaysia deputy president Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan and Datuk Sieh Kok Chee (far right), honorary secretary of OCM, at KLIA early yesterday. It was brought by Jiang Xiaoyu, vice-president of the games organising committee, from Bangkok. The torch relay starts from Dataran Merdeka this afternoon.

Olympic spirit

PETALING JAYA: Passengers who fly off from Sepang have been paying an additional RM2 to RM6 in airport tax for the last six years – no thanks to a lopsided deal between the government and Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd (ERLSB) which operates the Express Rail Link (ERL). The KLIA Express connects KL Sentral and KL International Airport. According to sources, under the terms of agreement for the RM2.8 billion ERL project, a portion of the airport taxes that departing passengers pay goes to the company – RM2 for domestic passengers and RM6 for international travellers from KLIA as well as the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). It is learnt that the rationale behind the concession agreement signed in 1997 is to ensure a return on investment for the service which started in 2002. YTL Corporation holds a 50%stake in ERLSB, which is responsible for building and operating the high-speed rail link. Tabung Haji Technologies Sdn Bhd holds 40% and Nadicorp Holdings Sdn Bhd the remaining 10%. ERLSB operates under a 30-year concession, including an option to extend for another 30 years to own and operate the express rail link. The ERL faces competition from other public transport operators due to its fare of RM35 for a one-way trip. Airport tax for KLIA is RM45 for international travellers and domestic passengers pay RM6. Airport tax for departures from the LCCT is RM6 for domestic and RM35 for international passengers. KLIA handled about 25 million passengers last year and the LCCT about eight million. “Half of these figures were departing passengers, which means ERL would be receiving in the region of RM80 million a year (from airport tax),” said a source.

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