Posted in Dari Meja Ketua Menteri



Good evening, and welcome to the award ceremony of the inaugural Penang Monthly Book Prize, which I am proud to officiate.

Penang has long been a centre for intellectual and academic excellence. Many were the newspapers founded here, and many have been the writers who had their beginnings on our shores. We have supplied the country with many journalists, academics and authors.

Historically, Penang has paved the way in the publishing scene as well, as has been documented by Penang Monthly in its insightful Window into History articles.

Printing in Penang began as early as 1806 with the London Missionary Press, using wooden blocks as was available at the time. This was, in fact, the first press to be established in the country.

Later came lithography, then letterpress – all were available in our budding state during the turn of the twentieth century.

A number of presses were rather out of the norm – take Syed Sheikh Syed Ahmad Al-Hadi’s Jelutong Press, for example: Al-Hadi had no choice but to make his way to Penang where press control was less rigid, and here he produced the first Malay novel the Nusantara had ever seen in 1925.

Apart from the visionary locals, hugely popular foreign writers also visited and took inspiration from our shores. Anthony Burgess, writer of works such as A Clockwork Orange and Malayan Trilogy, spent time here in the 1950s, no doubt sipping his stengah at a verandah of the E&O.

Somerset Maugham, famous for literary works such as Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge, once visited. Joseph Conrad, Isabella Bird, Han Suyin, the list goes on. The renown romance novelist, Barbara Cartland, even based one of her books on this island, titled “Paradise in Penang”, where in her Author’s Note, she wrote that Penang is “one of the most beautiful places in the world”.

Penang has also produced prodigious literary talents of its own, such as winner of the 2012 Man Asian Prize Tan Twan Eng, and poet and lawyer Cecil Rajendra, among many. We are very proud of these talents that hail from Penang, and the state government is more than willing to provide writers and poets the freedom to produce ground-breaking works, without fear of prosecution. Literature should not be censored, and at this the state government has always been accommodating – just ask the Editor of the Penang Monthly!

While regretfully, the publishing hub has shifted south to KL and Singapore, we are seeing a revival today, aided no doubt by a healthy printing industry led by big guns such as Phoenix Press, the printer of our very own Penang Monthly, and smaller independent printers found all around the state. This landscape has much aided Penang Monthly as a magazine – Penang has the hardware support as well as the software to run a publication such as this. In addition, the state government is firmly in support of the arts, as can be seen from our support and sponsorship of GTLF as well as the region’s biggest and most anticipated arts festival, the George Town Festival.

Which is why, at eight years old, the magazine has matured into its present exciting form, and it is high time it gives back to the literary landscape that has contributed highly to its readership all these years.

The Penang Monthly Book Prize seeks to reward literary excellence, and while it is contestable as to what is accepted as “literature”, we are not short of contenders.

Literature has evolved, and continues to do so. Is Harry Potter literature? Some would argue that it is, while it can be firmly classified as Young Adult Literature. We have at the festival this year Zen Cho, an up-and-coming fantasy writer. Will she be the next JK Rowling? Time will tell. We have also had, as festival panellists in previous years, comic book artists and food bloggers. Surely those aren’t “literature”? As I said earlier, it is contentious.

But what the book prize aims to do is to recognise and reward “good” literature. We can tell straight from the start what has quality, and what has not. Be that as it may, I am certain that the judges, all esteemed individuals in their own right, had a hard time deciding on the winner. I'm pleased to announce that the winner will be walking away with a cash prize of RM5000 and a plaque.

The shortlisted books are a mixed bag from different genres, but from what I have been told, what makes them similar is that they tell stories of people: Malaysians from different backgrounds and all walks of life; people with different ambitions, caught in unexpected and difficult circumstances – stories that many of us can relate to. Dato’ Dr Ooi will walk us through the shortlist shortly.

There is only one winner, but that does not mean the others are any lesser achievements. Perhaps we will see your book on the shortlist of the 2018 Penang Monthly Book Prize? Time to hammer away on the keyboard!

I shan’t keep you in suspense any more. Dato’ Dr Ooi, please take us to the next item on the agenda.

Thank you.


Posted in Dari Meja Ketua Menteri



A very pleasant evening I bid to the delegates of the 30th International Baba Nyonya Conference Penang 2017!

On behalf of the State Government of Penang, it’s my pleasure to welcome all the Babas and Nyonyas from across the globe to the opening of the 30th International Baba Nyonya Conference hosted by Penang this year.

I understand that after a hiatus of almost 6 years, the wheel has come full circle as the state chinese (penang) association gears up for yet another conference with a difference.

By creating connections and celebrating communities of Peranakan for at least 6 centuries, the Babas and Nyonyas of this century have encapsulated a heritage and culture that is imbued with traditional chinese values that shape and mould the new generations of Babas and Nyonyas.

The great number of delegates from Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand as well as other states in Malaysia is testimony of the necessity to preserve and enhance a culture by engaging interactively with eminent speakers on all things Peranakan, to promote their rich and glorious heritage.

Penang is indeed ideal to showcase the contributions of the local Peranakan community, from your signature Peranakan delicacies and dishes to the unforgettable Peranakan Museum. Further, the organisers led by Dato Dr Tan Gin Soon has chosen the newly refurbished RM200 million new Komtar to hold your conference.

The Komtar tower has undergone great transformation. Now it is an iconic location that is a one stop destination of indoor attractions and theme park. I am delighted to see that the organizing committee has included a tour of the many attractions in Komtar like the rainbow skywalk and observatory deck on the top 68th floor Komtar represents our hope for the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Penang has also topped the national list with total approved investments of RM7.7 billion in the manufacturing sector for the first half of 2017, it is also more than the RM4.3 billion investments recorded for the whole of 2016. Penang’s 1H 2017 total approved manufacturing investments contributed to 45% of the total RM17 billion investments approved nationwide. For the 9 1/2 years period between 2008- June 2017, Penang recorded an investment of RM 67 billion, a 81.6% increase compared to the previous 10 years period between 1998 to 2007 of RM 37 billion.

Furthermore, tourism has grown together with new hotels opening and higher occupancy rates. Penang was the highest contributor in the country for the new tourism tax (imposed at RM10 per international tourists) implemented on 1 September 2017, collecting RM241,460 in one month, even higher than Kuala Lumpur. This indicates that there were more international tourists in Penang than in Kuala Lumpur. 

The number of passengers at the Penang International Airport(PIA) hit 6.7 million passengers in 2016, exceeding the capacity of 6.5 million passengers, earlier than the expected full capacity by four years. This year, the number of passengers is expected to hit 7.1 million passengers.

In closing, I wish you all have a blessed and fun filled stay in penang.

Thank you.


Posted in Dari Meja Ketua Menteri


24 November 2017
Majestic Theatre, Penang


Good evening and Selamat Datang Ke Pulau Pinang,

On behalf of the Penang State Government, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to all of you to Penang, particularly the distinguished guests, writers, moderators and performers who have travelled from all over the world be a part of our literary festival. It is a great privilege for me on behalf of the Penang State Government to host and continue to sponsor the seventh edition of the George Town Literary Festival.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since we first launched the first edition in 2011, the GTLF has aimed to encourage the literary arts to flourish freely in Penang – for writers and poets to share their words, and for audiences to be engaged and inspired. From its humble beginnings of only five participating writers in the first edition, the GTLF has traversed much territory to become the premier Malaysian literary festival.

Over the course of six years, the GTLF has hosted more than 200 writers, poets and performers from all around the world. In March this year, the GTLF was shortlisted by the London Book Fair for its International Excellence Awards 2017, putting the festival on the world map.

The GTLF 2017 continues push the boundaries of dialogue and discourse by providing a crucial space for writers and audiences to delve into some of society’s most pressing questions. This year’s theme – ‘Monsters and (Im)mortals’ – will challenge participants to venture into a world of myths and legends, to help us to understand how our past and present affect and inspire the stories of today and tomorrow.

Set in the heart of George Town, the GTLF continues to shed light on a rich history and vibrant heritage, celebrating a colourful and varied past in our many stories; of treachery and love, of betrayal and redemption, of loss and triumph.

Penang has always been a cultural melting pot – an intersection for history and trade, for intellectual discussions and the exchange of ideas. It is more evident than ever that there is a hunger and urgency for artistic expression. A city with no art or music, no literature or performing arts, no film or photography – has no soul.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The state government is committed to cultivating Penang as a centre for learning and appreciation, where we are encouraged to be proud of our heritage and history. We have always taken pride in the fact that the GTLF is the only literary festival in the country that is funded by and supported by a state government.

This world-class festival, which encourages discourse from the public in the spirit of freedom of expression, is only possible in Penang because of the state government’s commitment to championing the arts, culture and community engagement.

Furthermore we make no apologies for celebrating diversity and not interfering in your lifestyle – as attested by the State Government's continued support for events like Oktoberfest despite attracting strong criticisms. Penang will not be a state that bans this or that but live and let live.

The GTLF continues to have riveting conversations, provocations and panel discussions, a translators’ roundtable, a poetry marathon, book launches, performances, film screenings and writing workshops.

The three-day long programme will continue to expose Penangites to some of the finest literary minds in the world, to encourage the culture of reading and intellectual discourse – all of which are crucial in creating a cultured society that celebrates diversity in thought, literature and language.

I would like to thank and congratulate the team behind the George Town Literary Festival 2017 for producing this esteemed gathering. Last but not least, to all our guests, writers, performers and partners from Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States:

Selamat datang ke Pulau Pinang!

I hope you will come to love the charming George Town as much as we do.