Penang opposition members criticise DAP handling of recent issues

GEORGE TOWN: Folks here seemed to be enjoying their singing and massages based on the number of fresh licences issued for family entertainment arcades, karaoke, massage parlors and snooker joints, not including a fairly high number of suspected illegal ones.

From 2008 until last year, 1,174 new permits were issued for such establishments, according to state opposition leader Datuk Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar - BN).

In addition, there are around 800 illegal entertainment premises, Jahara said on the sidelines of the state assembly sitting here.

The top entertainment places in demand were karaokes and massage parlors, said Jahara, but she lamented that there are concerns that the high number of entertainment outlets throughout the state would invite vice and social ills.

"It is time for the state authorities to clamp down hard on illicit activities. This has been dragging on for some time, and the state seemed in two minds about it," she said.

She also claimed that many entertainment centres were essentially fronts for illicit activities such as the narcotics trade and gangsterism.

In another development, Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad (Pulau Betong - BN) told the same press conference that the state government continues to ignore the feedback from the federal agencies on development policies.

Previously, the local authorities chose to ignore the input from the Department of Environment (DOE), which resulted in a landslide.

Now, the local authorities are taking lightly the feedback from the state agriculture department on the proposed rezoning of land status from agriculture to industrial or commercial, claimed Farid.

"It is not right. Our federal agencies are there because they have a certain specialty. And they make decisions based on the greater public interests instead of vested ones."

If the state continues to ignore feedback from the federal agencies, there would be room for abuse as their decisions will be based solely on the recommendations from local councillors.

"If the councillors wield strong influences, they can easily be corruptable if the local authorities ignore feedback from government agencies."