The new ethnic Chinese chief minister of Penang today picked a Malay and an Indian as his deputies, underlining the opposition's multiracial image.
Lim Guan Eng, head of DAP, was appointed chief minister yesterday after a stunning performance in weekend polls which handed Penang and three other states to a three-party opposition alliance.
Lim, who will govern one of the nation's richest states and the only one dominated by ethnic Chinese, appointed Penanti assemblyman Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin of PKR and Prai assemblyman Dr P. Ramasamy of DAP.
Ramasamy, a former political science lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, described his appointment as "an historic moment".
"There has never been an ethnic Indian deputy chief minister before and the appointment shows the DAP is living up to its electoral promise to represent all races," he said.
On the RM25bil Penang Global City Centre (PGCC), Lim said he had just been informed by the Penang Municipal Council and the state Town and Country Planning Department that the project had yet to be approved.
"We were all given the impression when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched the project that it was already approved. Apparently this is not so," he said.
Lim said since the project was not approved yet, the question of reviewing or cancelling it did not arise.
He said the state government would process the developer's application according to the normal procedure, and a decision would be made accordingly on whether to approve or reject it.
As to unhappiness from law-abiding citizens on the one-time waiver of summonses for offences involving hawker licences and parking issued by the Penang and Seberang Prai Municipal Councils before March 11, Lim said those who paid the summonses felt they deserved to do so.
"We received many complaints from hawkers and motorists that the summoness issued to them were unjustified as they felt they had not done anything wrong," he said.
DAP seeks to recast its image
Analysts said Lim's efforts will cement the opposition's unprecedented polls performance against the Barisan Nasional - a coalition of 14 race-based parties - and recast the image of the DAP as a predominantly Chinese party.
"I think this reflects the extra sensitivities given by the DAP to reflect its brand of multiracial policies," said James Chin, a political science professor at Monash University's campus in Kuala Lumpur.
"Now they can tell the whole world that they are truly a multiethnic party."
The weekend elections, which deprived the government of its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in its half-century history, has shattered the nation's race-based political scene.
Opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim's PKR has also emerged as a truly multiracial party, with lawmakers and supporters from all three races - posing a direct threat to BN.
Previously, it had touted itself as the only institution that could claim to represent Malaysia's racial spectrum.
Gerakan, a component party of BN which had ruled Penang since 1969, was wiped out in the March 8 polls. It only fielded ethnic Chinese candidates.