The arrest of SOS (Save Ourselves) secretary Ong Boon Keong and Ooi Chuan Seng in connection with the attempt by a group of pre-war premises tenants and SOS members to seek Tsu Koon’s intervention when the Chief Minister attended a heritage function in Georgetown on Friday is most deplorable and both should be released immediately and unconditionally.
The action by Ong and the tenants to get Tsu Koon to stay and attend to their desperate plight as a result of the ill-planned decontrol of pre-war premises, instead of resorting to continued evasions and prevarications, had caused intense embarrassment to the Penang Chief Minister, but at no time was there any attempt, intention or danger that he would be harmed.
The people who are being harmed are the tenants of rent-decontrolled premises, particularly those who face eviction at the end of March, without a safety net by the Penang State Government which had promised the tenants that there would be a "magic formula" to resolve their problems.
Although the police have denied that Ong and Ooi were arrested because of the instructions of Tsu Koon, very few would believe that the arrests could be made without the Chief Minister’s knowledge or consent.
In any event, who lodged the police report leading to Ong and Ooi’s arrest? Could such a police report be made without the knowledge or consent of Tsu Koon, or even against his wishes?
If it is true that there was a phone death threat against Tsu Koon made to the Gerakan headquarters, this must be condemned, but this cannot be arbitrarily linked to Ong and Ooi or to justify their arrest.
As the person directly involved, Tsu Koon should quash the police report lodged in connection with the attempt by Ong, SOS and pre-war tenants to get him to intervene in the plight of the ill-planned decontrol of the pre-war premises.
Furthermore, he should end his evasion and prevarication on this issue by passing the buck to his subordinates and arrange for an immediate meeting for him to discuss with all the affected tenants, landlords and public interest groups to find a fair and just formula before the issue reaches a new flashpoint at the end of the month with the mass eviction of tenants of pre-war premises following the expiry of eviction notices.