GEORGE TOWN: A major ‘political earthquake’ can be expected if Penang were to be turned into a Federal Territory, a political analyst predicted today.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies director Prof Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said any such takeover might also trigger a referendum like UK’s Brexit, and early polls for Penang.
Shamsul was commenting on Federal Territories (FT) Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s idea of placing Penang, Langkawi and parts of Malacca under direct federal rule.
“That is where the complications are: Penang can declare state election as a measure of getting people’s support, while the federal government can conduct a referendum in Penang like Brexit in UK.”
Brexit refers to a June 2016 referendum where 52% of UK citizens voted for Britain to leave the European Union.
“As for the legal aspect, it is not that complicated, like how KL and Putrajaya were taken from Selangor, but the poliquake ( political earthquake) would be big,” Shamsul told FMT.
Shamsul said, legally, the federal government could take over Penang, Langkawi and parts of Malacca for “development purposes”, under the National Land Code.
He said the federal authorities would require consent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the areas could be declared as federal territories.
“Penang, like Malacca and Singapore, was part of the Straits Settlements, not under any Sultan but under a British High Commissioner based in Singapore.
“Today, Penang and Malacca are under their governors but technically answerable to the Agong,” Shamsul said.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political scientist Dr Arnold Puyok said the suggestion was against the spirit of the federation.
“Turning Penang into a FT without strong justifications and support from the Penang government and the people…could affect the integrity of the federation,” he said.
Adnan had suggested that Penang, Langkawi Island and parts of Malacca be placed under Putrajaya’s control in an interview on the business radio station, BFM89.9 last week.
“I would like to expand the Federal Territories. If I can, I would take Langkawi, Penang, and certain parts of Malacca,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.
Presently, there are three FTs – Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. The first two were formerly part of Selangor while Labuan was conceded by Sabah.
Kuala Lumpur, the former capital of Selangor, was made a FT in 1974. Labuan was made FT in 1984 and later turned into an offshore financial centre, while Putrajaya was made FT, and has been the country’s administrative capital, since 2001.
Penang acceded to the Federation of Malaya Agreement on Jan 31, 1948. Before that, the state had been a British colony for more than a century. -FMT