Ong Ka Ting should be the first Minister to face a RM10 salary cut motion in the 2004 Budget debate in Parliament next week because of his failure to rectify the blunder in the Housing Developer Act resulting in the indefinite suspension of Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims and tens of thousands of small-time house-buyers stranded, facing losses up to RM250 million
- Port Dickson DAP anniversary dinner
by Lim Kit Siang
(Port Dickson, Saturday): It is exactly one month since the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment on 4th Sept. 2003 striking down the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims to hear disputes transacted before its establishment on December 1 last year, resulting in the indefinite suspension of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims and tens of thousands of small-time house-buyers stranded, facing RM250 million losses.
There is not enough outrage in the country at the ministerial and parliamentary scandal where the social legislation and protection intended for tens of thousands of homebuyers by the establishment of the Tribunal had proved to be completely illusory because of bad draftsmanship coupled with colossal Ministerial and Parliamentary failure of responsibility.
In other countries where there is a mature democracy and vibrant civil society, there would have been demonstrations against the Housing Minister up and down the country as well as inside and outside Parliament to demand for his head. Such a colossal blunder in the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 2002 as to nullify the entire purpose of the legislative provision to set up the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims is simply mind-boggling and inexcusable when it could have been easily anticipated and resolved with one sentence spelling out clearly and simply the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear disputes transacted before its establishment on Dec. 1 last year.
There would also have been demonstrations in such countries against MPs for their incompetence and ineptitude in passing such legislation with such ambiguity, defeating the very purpose of setting up the Tribunal, especially after DAP MPs Teresa Kok (Seputeh) and Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam) had pointed out during the debate on the bill in Parliament in October 2001 on the need to ensure that the Tribunal would have retrospective jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes transacted before its establishment.
The irresponsible attitude of the Housing Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting since the High Court judgment for the past month is most deplorable as he had done virtually nothing to help the tens of thousands of small-time housebuyers who are now stranded with regard to claims to the Tribunal those who had already submitted claims and those who had intended to submit claims to the Tribunal.
The only thing Ka Ting had done was to announce after the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment that the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail will appeal against the High Court decision, that the AG will ask for an early date for the appeal hearing and that the AG would appear personally in the case. All this would have come about without any intervention by Ka Ting, as the appeal by the Attorney-General would be an automatic matter of course, for the Senior Federal Counsel Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid had represented the Attorney-General as counsel at the High Court hearing on behalf of the Tribunal, which was one of the parties in the suit.
Ong had been most irresponsible in not personally appearing in Parliament to reply to MPs on the Housing Ministry, and in particular on the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims, during the winding-up of the policy debate on the 2004 Budget in Parliament on Monday, 29th September 2004, delegating it instead to the deputy minister, Datuk Peter Chin.
During Peter Chins reply on issues raised by DAP MPs on the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims, there were only three Members of Parliament who showed any interest on the plight of the tens of thousands of small-time housebuyers who have been stranded with the indefinite suspension of the Tribunal and they were all from the DAP, the three DAP women MPs, Chong Eng, Teresa Kok and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah).
Ka Ting had been most irresponsible in failing to turn up in Parlaiment personally to give a full and proper accounting as to how such a colossal blunder in the Housing Development Act could have been made resulting in the High Court striking down the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims, and what immediate remedial actions he had taken to protect the rights and interests of the homebuyers.
Next week, in the committee stage of the 2004 Budget debate where MPs would be debating the allocations for each Ministry, the Housing Ministry is likely to be dealt with. Will Ong again evade his Ministerial responsibility by absenting himself from Parliament.
Ong should be the first Minister to face a RM10 salary cut motion in the 2004 Budget debate in Parliament next week because of his failure to rectify the blunder in the Housing Developer Act resulting in the indefinite suspension of Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims and tens of thousands of small-time house-buyers being stranded, facing losses up to RM250 million.
The tens of thousands of homebuyers who have been stranded with regard to claims to the Tribunal can be grouped into three categories:
The solution for the third group is very clear Ong Ka Ting should swing into action to present an amendment bill for enactment by the current meeting of Parliament before it adjourns in November to spell out very clearly that the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims has jurisdiction to hear disputes transacted before Dec. 1 last year.
The problem is with the first two groups, in particular the 50-odd housebuyers who are direct parties to the appeal to the Court of Appeal, and later to the Federal Court whether Parliament could amend a law affecting the respective rights of parties with litigation pending appellate decision.
The second group of the 5,000-odd homebuyers who had filed claims with the Tribunal - whether disposed off or awaiting award - are also afflicted by the same conundrum.
The Chief Justice Tan Sri Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim should intervene in the matter, not to interfere with any judgment, but to ensure the earliest dates for the Court of Appeal and later by the Federal Court (as there would be further appeal whatever the initial appeal outcome) in view of the social legislation and social justice implications of the case.
The legal issues for the third group are more clear-cut and less complex that the lacuna in a social legislation meant to give social protection to small-time house buyers by establishing a Housing Tribunal with jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes transacted before its establishment on Dec. 1 should be urgently rectified by Parliament as further delays would adversely affect the rights and interests of the house-buyers, which will be a grave social injustice perpetrated by both the Housing Minister and Parliament.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman