(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Although Parliament has been extended by two days, i.e. May 12 and 13, I would call on the Cabinet to further extend the current Dewan Rakyat meeting by another four days so that Members of Parliament could do justice to the ten Bills before the House, many of which are important pieces of legislation as the three remaining cyberbills, the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill.
I am not asking that the other three cyberbills, the Digital Signature Bill, the Telemedicine Bill and Copyright (Amendment) Bill, should be allocated three days each as was the case with the Computer Crimes Bill, but there should be at least two days for the debate for the Digital Signature Bill as it concerns the important subject of electronic commerce, and one-and-a-half day each for the Telemedicine Bill and the Copyright Amendment Bill.
This would mean five days of debate for the three remaining cyberbills, which will take the Dewan Rakyat to the end of the current meeting on May 13. This is why I am suggesting that Dewan Rakyat should be extended for another four days, viz May 14, 15, 19 and 20, especially as there would be seven other Bills, two of which are of major social import, namely the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill.
The Government has taken two decades to finalise the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill, which would affect 36,467 pre-war buildings in Peninsular Malaysia, with one-third of them in Penang. As one million people are likely to be adversely affected by the repeal of rent control, it would be a grave social injustice if Parliament dismisses the problems of the one million affected people with contempt by not given adequate time of two days for debate.
Actually, in fairness, the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill should be deferred to the July meeting of Parliament, for the one million affected people should be given an opportunity to give their views as to the proposed decontrol of rent for pre-war buildings.
There should be adequate time for the affected one million people to get assurances that the proposed programme of rent decontrol would safeguard their basic rights and interests, as for instance, why the government decided on a 27-month transition period for the full repeal of the Rent Control Bill when the government had until recently proposed a five-year transition period.
According to the "fair rent" formula in the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill, during the transition period, the rental increases permissible for each year for three years until the total repeal of the Rent Control Act would be about 50 per cent of the present rental for each year.
For instance, if the present rental is RM50, the new rental for the first year can only be up to RM75, the second year up to RM100 and the third year RM125.
Two questions are immediately raised: Firstly, can the government give a guarantee that in the actual working out of the increases of rents during this transition period, there would be no cases of increases by more than 50 per cent based on the present rental for each year?
Secondly, as the transition period is for 27 months, why is the first round of 50 per cent increase to last for only three months, when it should be for a full 12 months?
An even more fundamental question is whether the government can give guarantee that in the process of rent decontrol of pre-war premises, the government can ensure that the low-income people would not be dislocated or uprooted and be victims of the exercise but would be provided with alternative low-cost housing, whether for rent or purchase?
There are many grave socio-economic issues affecting the people in a 27-month repeal of the Rent Control Act which must be addressed, and it is only right and fair that before the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill is debated and enacted by the Dewan Rakyat that there would be the widest public consultation and input.
Even now, the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill has not been distributed to MPs for study, although the government has given notice that it would be moving the first reading of this Bill on Monday.
The public should also be given time to study and give reaction to the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and I would seriously urge the government to also defer the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill to the July meeting of Parliament.