Monday, March 30, 2015

The Island of Penang - the island city of Malaysia

Pulau Pinang or the island of Penang is now a  city. Yes, the whole island, not the State of Penang or Negeri Pulau Pinang comprising Penang Island and Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley). Seberang Perai is under the Majlis Perbandaran Seberang  Perai (MPSP) or Seberang Perai Municipal Council.

So what is new? Nothing, if I may say so. At least to most of us, Penangites. City status is nothing new to us. George Town is  a city. Administratively and politically, it may not be, but historically and legally it is a City. 

The George Town City status was awarded by the command of Queen Elizabeth II on January 1, 1957. The city status was not revoked.

In the late fifties and early sixties, I used to travel by buses and trolley-buses operated by the Transport Department of the City Council of George Town (CCGT), power was supplied by the Electricity Supply Department and city dwellers paid their quit rents and other utility bills at the City Hall, Esplanade. 

CCGT also issued licences to trishaws and bicycles, yes bicycles, from its office at Penang Road next to the City's Fire Department. Both buildings were torn down to make way for the construction of KOMTAR.  Bicycle owners were required to register for a nominal fee and provided with number plates that must be screwed to the vehicle. 

The peculiar situation of George Town, a city minus a proper council, was the result of the then Gerakan-led state government's decision to merge CCGT with the Rural District Council (Majlis Daerah Luar Bandar or MDLB) to form the Municipal Council (MPPP).

At its an augural meeting on January 2, 1957, lawyer G.H. Goh of the Alliance Party was elected President defeating D.S. Ramanathan (Labour Party). However, Ramanathan was elected as George Town's first mayor, a post created by an amendment to the constitution by the State Legislature. The City Council of George Town never failed to hold elections (local council elections) to elect a mayor and its councillors. The city's taxpayers continued to vote in the Labour Party and later the Socialist Front to head the City Council until it was replaced by the MPPP.

Penang's main stadium (before the construction of the Batu Kawan state stadium - a white elephant to many), is the City Stadium. It was named so because it was under the City Council of George Town  and till now, a preferred venue by the football association. 

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