The Penang State Government should formally intervene to assume full responsibility for all the tenants of pre-war premises to negotiate directly with the landlords to ensure that no one would be evicted without fair terms and affordable alternative accommodation.
When the Rent Control (Repeal) Bill was debated in Parliament in May 1997, DAP MPs were the only voice opposing the 28-month transitional period for the total repeal of the Rent Control Act, as we warned that such a haphazard and ill-prepared repeal would cause enormous socio-economic hardships to the poor and low-income groups,
I had proposed in Parliament that in the repeal of the rent control legislation, the Federal and State Governments should recognise a Charter for the tenants of pre-war premises comprising three principles, namely:
No socio-economic injustice and hardship should be caused to the tenants
of pre-war premises;
Avoid a situation where the rich becomes richer, the poor poorer;
No discrimination in the relocation and rehousing of the affected tenants.
However, Barisan Nasional MPs, including those from Gerakan, opposed my amendment to extend the 28-month repeal period to five years, with the Gerakan alleging in Parliament that the DAP was "making a mountain out of a molehill" and "digging for bones in an egg".
It is most unfortunate and tragic that the DAPís warnings have now been proved true - that the ill-prepared repeal of the Rent Control Act is causing enormous hardships to the affected tenants in 12,500 premises in Penang as well as threatening to turn the inner city Georgetown into a ghost-town.
With the coming into effect of the first batch of eviction notices yesterday, the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and the Penang State Government cannot continue to abdicate from their responsibility to resolve the socio-economic problems faced by the tenants of prewar premises, especially as the rent decontrol legislation is the handiwork of the Barisan Nasional government, both national and state.
The Penang State Government should announce its preparedness to assume full responsibility for all the tenants of the decontrolled premises to ensure that no one would be evicted without fair terms and affordable alternative accommodation, and Tsu Koon should head a special state government task force to negotiate with all the landlords of the decontrolled premises on behalf of the affected tenants.
Tsu Koon must declare the plight faced by the tenants of pre-war premises as the No. 1 Government Crisis in Penang and convene an emergency meeting of the Penang State Assembly to work out a formula to ensure that the affected tenants are treated fair and justly in the rent decontrol process.