Whether my private memberís bill to extend Rent Control (Repeal) Act for another five years will be debated in Parliament on Monday is now in the hands of Gerakan/MCA Ministers/MPs


Speech
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Extend Rent Control (Repeal) Act Rally
by
Lim Kit Siang 

(Penang, Friday): I have submitted my motion to table  a private memberís bill to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act for another five years in Parliament and it appears in the Parliamentary Order Paper as one of the parliamentary business for the forthcoming meeting of Parliament starting on Monday.

It is now for Gerakan and MCA Ministers and Members of Parliament to decide whether my private memberís bill to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act for another five years will be given priority and debated on Monday.

As an Opposition MP, I can submit motions and private memberís bills to be debated in Parliament, but I do not have the power to ensure that they are debated at all.  This is because the Barisan Nasional government, with its unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority, has absolute control on allocation of time in Parliament - and Opposition motions and private memberís bill had been "killed" when they could not get parliamentary time for debate.

Whether  my motion on the private memberís bill to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act for another five years is to be given priority and debated in Parliament on Monday will depend on whether the Gerakan and MCA Ministers are prepared to give their support for parliamentary time to be given for it  on Monday.  Only then will we come to the question as to whether Gerakan and MCA Members of Parliament are prepared to vote and support  my private memberís bill to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act for another five years.

Monday is therefore a great test for Gerakan and MCA Ministers and MPs  as to whether they are prepared to undo the damage they had done as a result of their blind support for the repeal of the Rent Control Act without ensuring that the affected tenants of the pre-war premises are given a fair and just deal in terms of alternative affordable accommodation and fair compensation.

When the Rent Control (Repeal) Act was tabled in Parliament in May 1997, DAP MPs were the only voices opposing it for not providing at least a five-year decontrol transition period and iron-clad provisions that before the full repeal of the Rent Control Act, the Government would  ensure that the affected tenants would get fair compensation and affordable alternative accommodation.

At that time, Gerakan and MCA MPs not only refused to support the DAPís stand in Parliament, Gerakan MP for Bukit Bendera, Chia Kwang Thye dismissed the DAP discussion in Parliament of the socio-economic hardships faced by tenants of pre-war premises as  "Digging for bones in an egg"!

Chia Kwang Thye has still to publicly apologise to the affected tenants of pre-war premises, especially the 12,600 premises, 16,000 households and 60,000 people in Penang affected by rent decontrol for showing utter contempt for the socio-economic hardships caused to the poor who would be uprooted and dislocated by the very  ill-planned repeal of the Rent Control Act.

Instead of reprimanding and disciplining  Chia Kwang Thye for his deplorable conduct in Parliament in dismissing the concerns and worries of the 60,000 people who would be affected rent decontrol,  the Gerakan leadership has rewarded Chia Kwang Thye by making him the Gerakan Secretary-General recently!  It is no wonder that the Gerakan Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon was not prepared to do very much for the affected tenants.

In actual fact, the repeal of the Rent Control Act is the direct result of the landslide victory of the Barisan Nasional in the 1995 general election, where the DAP was virtually wiped out of the Penang State Assembly except for lone DAP Assemblywoman Chong Eng.

The first thing Tsu Koon wanted to do in 1991 after he became Chief Minister was to repeal the Rent Control Act, without a comprehensive plan for alternative affordable housing and reasonable compensation to minimise the socio-economic hardships for the affected tenants.

However, when Tsu Koon was attacked by the DAP for disregarding the interests and welfare of the affected tenants, the Penang State Government backed down because  the DAP had 14 State Assemblymen out of 33 seats and had announced its intention to make a bid for Penang State Government in the Tanjong 3 project.

The DAPís electoral debacle in the 1995 general election therefore provided the Barisan Nasional the opportunity to repeal the Rent Control Act without providing proper alternative affordable housing or reasonable and just compensation to the affected tenants.

The Penang Chief Minister had failed the people of Penang again and again on the issue of the repeal of rent control legislation.  Even his  recent appeal to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to give a further three-year extension to the Rent Control (Repeal) Act had failed to elicit any positive response from the Federal Government.

With the general election around the corner, Tsu Koon was hard-pressed to come out with something to show that the Penang State Government is concerned about the plight of the affected tenants of the pre-war premises.

This is why he announced the  RM100 million fund to provide soft loans to owners of rent-controlled premises to redevelop and renovate their buildings, on the condition that building owners must first enter into rental agreements for a minimum period of three years with tenants who had registered for low-cost or low-medium houses with the state housing division.

The RM100 million fund is more election gimmick than anything else, for it is unlikely to give real help to the affected tenants of pre-war premises, who are receiving notices from their landlords whether to increase rentals - in some cases with rent increases exceeding 1,000 per cent - or just notice to give vacant possession of their premises on 1.1.2,000.

The affected tenants of the pre-war premises now face a countdown of 76 days before they lose all protection as tenants, and the time has come for them to take a strong and collective stand to demand intervention by both the Federal and State Governments to resolve their socio-economic hardships caused by a most unfair and irresponsible decontrol of pre-war premises.

(15/10/99)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong