The failure of the Penang Chief Minister to stand up for the rights and interests of the 60,000 tenants of pre-war houses was revealed by the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh yesterday after the DAP had highlighted the issue in the first two days of Parliament.
Ting said that the Cabinet had decided on October 6 that the January 1 deadline to repeal the Rent Control Act 1966 would not be extended and that the rental for 32,852 rent-control premises in the country would be subject to market forces beginning next year.
Already, there are tenants of pre-war premises in Penang who have received notices from landlords increasing their rentals by over one thousand per cent beginning in January. Others had received outright eviction notice.
Penang will be worst hit by the decontrol of the pre-war premises, as it has 12,577 such premises, involving 16,000 households numbering over 60,000 people.
It is most regrettable that the Gerakan and MCA Ministers had refused to heed the pleas of the tenants of pre-war premises for an extension of the Rent Control (Repeal) Act, especially as the Barisan Nasional government, both at national and state levels, had failed to provide affordable alternative housing to minimise the socio-economic hardships faced by the affected tenants.
It is even more regrettable that the Penang Chief Minister could so easily abandon the Penang State Government’s request to the Federal Government to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act.
Why couldn’t Tsu Koon co-ordinate with the Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik to ensure that he speak with one voice in Cabinet with the four other MCA Ministers for an extension of the Rent Control (Repeal) Act until the government is able to provide affordable alternative housing for the affected tenants to minimise their socio-economic hardships?
MCA and Gerakan claim that they support in principle the 17-Point Hua Tuan Election Appeals, but what is the use of declaring support in principle when they are not prepared to specifically implement its 83 proposals, one of which is on housing? If the MCA and Gerakan Ministers support in principle the 17-Point Hua Tuan Election Appeals, then they should have got the Cabinet to extend the Rent Control (Repeal) Act.
The tenants of pre-war premises have been let down by the Gerakan and MCA Ministers in Cabinet, Gerakan and MCA leaders in Penang State Government and Gerakan and MCA MPs who had sabotaged my motion on five-year extension of the Rent Control (Repeal) Act from being debated in Parliament.
Tsu Koon had announced a RM100 million fund to provide soft loans to owners of rent-control 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.
Is the RM80 million Federal Government special loan over and above the RM100 million fund announced by Tsu Koon, or is it part of it?
In any event, the RM100 million fund is unlikely to give real help to the affected tenants of pre-war premises, who now face a countdown of 71 days before they lose all protection as tenants.