(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Parti Gerakan and the MP for Bukit Bendera, Chia Kwang Thye should apologise to tenants of rent-control premises in Penang and the whole country for dismissing discussion in Parliament of the socio-economic hardships faced by tenants of pre-war premises as a result of decontrol as "Digging for bones in an egg"!
Chia Kwang Thye used this phrase several times in Parliament yesterday when debating on my amendment to the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill seeking to extend the 28-month transition period for the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966 to five years and seems very proud of this Chinese phrase.
I find this Gerakan attitude most shocking, as it shows a total lack of seriousness and sincerity in trying to understand and resolve the socio-economic hardships that would be caused to the poor who would be uprooted and dislocated by an ill-planned repeal of the Rent Control Act.
If the Gerakan Parliamentary spokesman on the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill could be so unsympathetic and irresponsible with regard to the socio-economic hardships faced by the poor in the decontrol of pre-war premises, then the people of Penang, which has the most pre-war premises in the country, must ask whether they could trust the Penang State Government to ensure that no one would suffer any socio-economic hardships in the rent decontrol process.
During the debate on my amendment to extend the 28-month transition period for rent decontrol to five years, one Barisan Nasional MP posed the question when expressing his opposition to my amendment: "Siapa yang taí mahu duduk percuma?".
I find this question most insulting to the poor living in the pre-war premises, as such a questioner virtually regards the poor as parasites who sponge on the landlords by "duduk percuma" in the rent control premises and implies that the DAP wants these tenants to "duduk percuma" for another five years. This is a travesty of the truth, for nobody "duduk percuma" in the rent control premises!
I am most shocked that the Gerakan has decided to take such a reactionary stand on the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill in Parliament and to oppose amendments proposed by the DAP meant to ensure that the repeal of the Rent Control Act in Penang and other parts of the country are carried out fairly and justly to all parties concerned, in particular the poorer sections of our society.
However, the Gerakan MPs in Parliament decided to play the negative role of opposing the DAPís proposals for the extension of the transition period from 28 months to five years and for compensation to be paid to the tenants.
I had suggested in Parliament that the Federal and State Governments should recognise a Charter for the tenants of pre-war premises comprising three principles and five measures.
The three principles are:
The five measures are:
1. Compensation to tenants;
2. Affordable accommodation to rehouse tenants;
3. Relocation should not adversely affect the livelihood of the tenants;
4. Five-year transition period for the rent decontrol process; and
5. As Penang Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Shariff Omar had promised the Malays staying in pre-war premises in Georgetown that they would not be relocated to Seberang Prai but would continue to stay in the vicinity fo their present premises, the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should give an assurance that the Deputy Chief Ministerís promise would be extended to everyone in Georgetown who would be affected by the repeal of the Rent Control Act, regardless of race.
If Chia Kwang Thye and the Gerakan do not have the courage to support a Charter of three principles and five measures for the tenants, there is no need for them to launch a bitter attack on the DAP and show contempt for the tenants of pre-war premises by describing their problems as "digging for bones in an egg"!
The Gerakan leadership owes the people of Penang, the voters of Teluk Intan and Malaysians generally a full explanation as to whether it is its official policy and stand to deride the problems and hardships of tenants of pre-war premises as "Digging for bones in an egg".
If this is not the official Gerakan policy and stand, then it should take disciplinary against Chia Kwang Thye to show that Gerakan leaders are serious and sincere about the socio-economic problems which the poor would suffer when the rent decontrol process is launched without the safety net of a Charter of three principles and five measures as I had proposed in Parliament during the debate on the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill.