(Bagan, Friday): DAP calls on the Penang State Government to take the initiative to suspend the repeal of the Rent Control Act until after the end of the national economic crisis.
The DAP had proposed a Charter for tenants of pre-war premises comprising three principles and five measures with regard to the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966.
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 of their present premises, the Penang Chief Minister 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.
Both the Federal and Penang State Government had ignored the DAPís proposed Charter for Justice of three principles and five measures for tenants of pre-war premises, with a Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament even objecting in the Dewan Rakyat to my proposal that the 28-month period for the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966 should be extended to five years from March 1, 1998 to Feb. 29, 2003. At it stands now, all the pre-war premises would be decontrolled by 31st December 1999.
The national economic crisis has now compounded the hardships faced by tenants of pre-war premises who are from the low-income groups, as it is very clear that the government could neither assure affordable accommodation to rehouse all affected tenants nor ensure that there would be no socio-economic injustice and hardship in the process of decontrol.
As the bulk of the pre-war premises are in Penang, which constitute about one-third of the controlled premises, the Penang State Government should take the initiative to suspend the repeal of the Rent Control Act until after the end of the national economic crisis.
Nobody knows how long the national economic crisis is going to last. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in the TV3 Malaysia Hari Ini live telecast this morning that if the people are smart and co-operated with the government, the country might be able to see an economic turnaround in six to 12 months.
I think this is too optimistic an estimate, as I do not see the government being fully prepared, both psychologically and politically, to come out with a nationally-unifying strategy to rally and galvanise the people to respond as one united nation to tide through the economic crisis in the shortest possible time and with the minimum of avoidable injustice, pain, suffering and hardships.
There are pessimists who are talking in terms of two or three years or even longer before Malaysia can return to the economic buoyancy and vibrancy six months ago!
The Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, should give serious consideration to the DAP proposal that the Penang State Government take the initiative to suspend the repeal of the Rent Control Act until after the end of the national economic crisis. He should convince the Federal Government of the merit of this suspension so that a Bill could be introduced in the next meeting of Parliament to provide for such a suspension.