Ka Ting should make a Ministerial statement in Parliament before he joins the Deputy Prime Minister’s mission to China on Sunday and apologise to MPs and the country for the colossal blunder and slipshod legislation in the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 2002 resulting in the indefinite suspension of Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims and tens of thousands of small-time house-buyers facing losses up to RM250 million
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): When together with DAP leaders, including DAP MPs, Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam), Fong Kui Loon (Bukit Bintang), Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah), DAP National Publicity Secretary Ronnie Liu and DAPSY National Secretary Anthony Loke, I visited the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur yesterday, I was reminded of the story of the “Empty Castle stratagem” used by Chu-ko Liang in the Chinese classics, The Three Kingdoms.
The Tribunal for Homebuyers’ Claims, headed by a Chairman and Deputy Chairman, with 26 officers and scores of supporting staff, was empty, displaying to all and sundry the following prominent notice: “NOTIS. SEMUA URUSAN PENDENGARAN/KES-KES TUNTUTAN DI TRIBUNAL INI DI TANGGUHKAN HINGGA DIBERITAHU KELAK. Terima Kasih.”
This is the first time in the nation’s 46-year history that a Tribunal set up to provide cheap and fast justice to the ordinary people-in-the-street had to suspend all operations because of a High Court judgment that it had acted ultra vires of its jurisdiction – and it is unknown how long the Tribunal officers and staff will get “gaji buta”.
Last Thursday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court in a test-case held that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes over property bought before December 1 last year, and all the some 5,000 claims which had been filed with the Tribunal in the past nine months since Dec. 1 last year were in this category.
In view of the far-reaching implications of the High Court decision, it is most shocking that the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting had not availed himself of the first opportunity to appear in Parliament to outline the government’s position and plans as well as to assure the tens of thousands of small-time house buyers that they have no reason to worry as the government would fully protect their rights and interests. This would have been the first task of the Housing Minister if such a housing crisis had occurred in other countries.
Ong should not dilly-dally any further and should make a Ministerial statement in Parliament before he joins the Deputy Prime Minister’s mission to China on Sunday and apologise to MPs and the country for the colossal blunder and slipshod legislation in the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 2002 resulting in the indefinite suspension of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims and tens of thousands of small-time house-buyers facing losses up to RM250 million. Ong must make his Ministerial statement tomorrow, as he would otherwise have no opportunity to do so until the return of the Deputy Prime Minister’s mission to China, some three weeks after the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment striking down the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and forcing its stoppage and indefinite suspension.
The only response from Ong so far was his statement on Friday that the Attorney-General would represent the government in the appeal against the High Court judgment and would be seeking an early date for the hearing.
The Housing Minister’s responsibility for the crisis which had descended on the small-time house-buyers who had been promised cheap and speedy disposal of their grievances against housing developers but suddenly confronted with a loss of as much as RM250 million cannot be limited to such a weak response.
Ong owes a full explanation to the small-time housebuyers as to why such a colossal blunder and unprofessional, slipshod legislation was committed – when the problem could have been anticipated and averted with one sentence in the law clearly spelling out the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear disputes transacted before its establishment on Dec. 1 last year.
Such colossal blunder and slipshod legislation, which is costing the small-time house-purchasers dearly with possible collective loss of some RM250 million and the indefinite suspension of the Tribunal, is all the more inexcusable and deplorable as DAP MPs Teresa Kok and Chong Eng 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. If the government had listened to the views of DAP MPs, such a colossal blunder would not have happened.
The last thing Ong should now do is to leave the country without giving a full Ministerial statement to apologise for the colossal blunder and slipshod legislation and to outline the government’s contingency plans to save and protect the rights and interests of the small-time house-buyers or he would be opening himself to the charges of gross Ministerial irresponsibility and running away from a housing crisis largely of his creation.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman