Call on Housing Minister to introduce an amendment bill during the current meeting of Parliament to provide for a five-year extension for the transition period for decontrol of pre-war premises

Speech 3
- Royal Address 1999

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): In May 1997, during the debate on the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill, I had moved an amendment during the Committee Stage seeking to extend the 28-month transition period for the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966 to five years. Unfortunately, this amendment was opposed by the Barisan Nasional MPs, in particular those from the MCA and Gerakan, with the  Gerakan MP for Bukit Bendera, Chia Kwang Thye leading the attack on the amendment, using the Chinese phrase "Digging for bones in an egg" in  dismissing discussion in Parliament of the socio-economic hardships faced by tenants of pre-war premises as a result of decontrol.

I had subsequently expressed my shock at such  Gerakan attitude which showed 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.

I had asked 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, with  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?".

Such a  question was  most insulting to the poor living in the pre-war premises, as the poor were regarded as parasites who sponge on the landlords by "duduk percuma" in the rent control premises - an attitude which seemed prevalent among Barisan Nasiohnal MPs. This was and is a travesty of the truth, for nobody "duduk percuma" in the rent control premises!

DAP supports the decontrol of pre-war premises but the government must ensure that the repeal of the Rent Control Act in Penang and other parts of the country is  carried out fairly and justly to all parties concerned, in particular the poorer sections of our society.

During the debate in Parliament, I had suggested 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 of 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.

The DAPís call for  a Charter for the tenants of pre-war premises comprising three principles and five measures have been proved prescient, for in a recent survey of 1,100 households in pre-war premises in Georgetown in February this year, 96.7 per cent of those surveyed appealed for the transition period for rent decontrol to be extended for five years from 1st January 2000 to 1st January 2005 as the Penang State government is not ready with alternative housing for the relocation of the affected people.  It is also clear that the Penang State Government would not have the  alternative affordable housing for all the affected pre-war residents when the Rent Decontrol Act is fully implemented by the end of this year.

The request of the people of Georgetown for an extension of the transition period for rent decontrol on socio-economic grounds should be given serious consideration by both the Federal and Penang State Governments.

 For this reason, I would urge the Housing Minister, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh to  introduce an amendment bill during the current meeting of Parliament to provide for a five-year extension for the transition period for the decontrol of pre-war premises, and I hope that for a start, the Gerakan and MCA MPs would come forward to express their support for a five-year extension of the Rent Control (Repeal) Act.

DAP calls on Housing Minister  to set up a special committee to look into numerous problems in  the housing projects in Penang

I also wish to call on the Housing Minister  to set up a special committee to look into numerous problems faced by house buyers in   housing projects in the Penang state.

DAP Penang foresees that more housing projects will face problems like Taman Terubong Indah of Majestic Heights Sdn. Bhd. in Paya Terubong and Perangin Mall in Penang  where both developers are unable to deliver housing units and shop lots according to the scheduled dates.

In addition, there are at least five low-medium cost housing projects facing OC problem including a one-block flats at Jalan Telaga in Butterworth which could not obtain OC due to a legal tussle with the Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Prai (MPSP).

Purchasers of these problematic projects face great financial burden because they have to pay rental as well as service house loan interests particularly those from  the low income group. In these circumstances, purchasers who are tenants of rent control premises find difficulties in securing alternative housing or business premises when the act is repealed at the end of December this year.

The delay in the Prangin Mall project will also affect economic recovery in the state.

Providing housing is a social responsibility of the government. The Housing Ministry  must play a more effective role in ensuring that all housing projects, especially the privatised low-medium cost projects, are completed  according to schedule.

The Ministry of Housing  should also look into loopholes in  the current laws governing the housing industry that are  unfavourable or unfair  to the purchasers.

In this connection, I want to ask the Housing Minister what his Ministry had done to resolve the problems faced by some 3,000 house buyers of Majestic Heights housing project at Taman Paya Terubong.

The project consists of 4 phases. The first phase was launched in December 1994. It has a total of 1,557 units priced between RM69,900 to RM79,9000. The second phase has 380 units priced between RM79,000 to RM89,000. The third phase has 540 units priced between RM128,000 to RM149,000. The fourth phase consists of 252 units of RM25,000 low-cost housing, 208 units of RM69,000 housing,  126 units of RM59,000 low-medium cost housing and 20 shop-lots.

The first phase project was launched in December 1994 and was scheduled to be completed by December 1997. However, the buyers obtained vacant possession by batches from May 1998. House buyers are angry that till today the developer has yet to apply OC and they are thus unable to live in their houses.

The second phase buyers face the same  problem when they were told to collect their house keys in January this year. In addition, they were shocked to find that work in most of the units are yet to finished. For example one of the blocks is still without a  lift.

The third phase buyers were scheduled to get  vacant possession in March this year but the project is only 35% complete.

Many of the phase four buyers are tenants of rent control premises.

The phase one and two buyers are now doubly burdened by rental and house loan repayments.  The problem of all four phases of house buyers of Taman Majestic Heights have been brought to the attention of the  Minister of Housing, who should inform Parliament how these problems are being  resolved.

Although  the Housing Minister, Datuk Ting Chew Peh said in Penang on 13th March 1999 that he would  direct his officers to investigate into the plight of Majestic Heights buyers within a week,  nothing had  achieved by his officials although about four weeks  have passed.  Is the Housing Ministry a mere paper tiger?

In view of the fact that some 3,000 housing units are involved, I would call on the Housing Minister to personally visit the housing project to see the gravity and variety of the problems faced by the house-buyers in all  the four phases of the project.


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