I'm super-tired. I took three days of annual leave starting from Boxing Day until New Year's Eve, hoping that I could use the continuous stretch of eight days to recharge my batteries for the challenges ahead in 2009.
How wrong I was. Except for Christmas Day, I have had to hop out to the island every day for one task or another such as going to the wake of a senior member of my Kongsi (association), gathering my family together for a belated birthday lunch, chairing a meeting of my Kongsi committee, visiting the Buddhist temple to listen to the words of wisdom from Ajahn Brahm, sending my turntable for a check-up and .... proudly attending a dinner to commemorate George Town's 52nd anniversary of City status.
So you see, my time had been wholly occupied the past seven days and frankly, I'm bushed. But my tiredness was all swept away when I entered the E&O Hotel in Farquhar Street...one of the selected few hundred people invited to the function. A lot of NGO representatives were there, as well as politicians and ex-politicians. But it was a pity that there were a few empty seats too. I heard that a few politicians from the Opposition were also invited but they were under orders from their higher-ups not to turn up. How true was that? Don't really know.
Anyway, I was glad to see our former Chief Minister and elder statesman, Dr Lim Chong Eu. Dr Choong Sim Poey was there with his bubbly wife, Kee Phaik Cheen. I haven't seen them for a few years. Also, Anwar Fazal whom I first met at Penang Hill last year. Then a whole list of politicians from the Pakatan Rakyat ... people like Liew Chin Tong, Ong Kok Fooi and of course, our present CM, Lim Guan Eng.
Mustn't forget too that the Governor, Abdul Rahman bin Abbas, was present. His late arrival at the function (albeit only by five minutes) together with the speeches by the Penang Island Municipal Council president Zainal Rahim bin Seman and Guan Eng meant that dinner slipped way past 9.20pm. Supper, that's what one chap at my table quipped. If we had not wised up enough to take some food before this function, we'd have collapsed with great hunger.
Throughout their speeches, they kept talking about how George Town became a city on 1 Jan 1957 following a petition to Queen Elizabeth II from the George Town Municipal Council in 1956. They were trying to justify why George Town should still remain a city despite it having been absorbed into the greater Penang Island Municipality in the 1970s. But I was thinking to myself: why should George Town cease to be a city? It'll be a rather unique case of a city located within a greater municipality. I don't see any problem with this. In any case, it happened in the 1970s. If there is any person who can clarify what happened then, it should be Dr Lim Chong Eu himself because he allowed it to happen in his watch.
Guan Eng talked at great length and solicited some laughs when he said that the president of the Penang Island Municipal Council should also be considered the Lord Mayor of the City of George Town. But there won't be any city councillor. He tried to make light of the issue but in my opinion, it's all either very complicated or very simple.
Simple because the Lord Mayor's position can simply be a ceremonial post. An enhanced ceremonial post that can come together with the George Town city status. And as for local governance, it still falls under the Penang Island municipal president.
Complicated because I sense some dithering by the state government. A guarded approach. Not with the fullest confidence. As if everything still has to be explained carefully to everyone. Maybe they are correct in the approach but I hope the government will put more thought into this matter or else there'll be one legal obstacle after another.
More later (maybe) ....