Ill-prepared rent decontrol is Tsu Koon’s millennium betrayal of the people of Penang

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Friday): The human tragedies enacted in Georgetown in the past two days and in the days to come as a result of ill-prepared rent decontrol is the millennium betrayal of the people of Penang by the Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon.

Tsu Koon had cleanly forgotten his election promise last month that he would meet the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad after the Nov. 29, 1999 general election to seek an extension of the Rent Control Act before its repeal on 31st December 1999.

From Tsu Koon’s replies in the Penang State Assembly, it is clear that he had never met Mahathir after the election to ask for an extension of the Rent Control Repeal Act and this was why in the recent parliamentary meeting, there was no emergency bill to extend rent decontrol in Penang  for another three to five years.

It is ironic but true that if the DAP had won one-third of the State Assembly seats on Nov. 29, 1999, it would have forced the Barisan Nasional government to rethink its whole strategy on rent decontrol, especially at a time when it could not ensure that there would be a minimum of socio-economic hardships and dislocations of the 60,000 people in 12,600 pre-war premises in Penang affected by the hasty legislation.

This is because the Tsu Koon and the Barisan Nasional state government would be placed in the position as after the 1990 general election when the DAP won 14 state assembly seats, as any false step by the Penang state government might cost it state power five years later.

However, with another landslide victory of the Barisan Nasional in Penang against the DAP, there was no need for the Chief Minister to  reconsider  the rent decontrol issue, as he regarded his position as very safe  - and this is why Tsu Koon did not even bother to honour his election pledge to meet Mahathir to seek a breathing space for the tenants of the pre-war premises in Penang.

Tsu Koon and the Barisan Nasional State Government cannot sit idly by while human tragedies continue to be enacted in Penang as a result of ill-prepared rent decontrol, and they must ensure that a safety net is immediately put in place to minimise socio-economic hardships and dislocations for the affected tenants - that every family could be rehoused with affordable accommodation without being forced into the streets.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman