Speech by Penang Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Assemblymen for Padang Kota, Lim Kit Siang, in the Penang State Assembly on Monday, 14th December 1992 on the 1993 Development Estimates
DAP calls on the Penang State Government to immediately establish a special commission to re-house the 150,000 people in rent-controlled premises in Penang to prepare for the repeal of the Rent Control Act
The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh, said in Penang yesterday that there must be a timeframe to phase out rent-controlled buildings and the repeal of the Rent Control Act, and he talked in terms of the total phasing out of the Rent Control Act in three to five years.
The people of Penang cannot forget that one of the important objectives of the Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, in his 100-day interview was the repeal of the Rent Control Act in Penang.
Thus, the New Straits Times special report dated 4th February 1991 states:
“Dr. Koh is also prepared to face the impending storm over the move to repeal the Rent Control Act that has for so long stultified the inner city in a sort of pre-war time warp.
“Yes, there will be repercussions, but someone has to do it or else there won’t be any progress. We are prepared to face the challenge even if it means a decline in popularity.
“He favours repealing the Act, but stressed that decontrol must be done in phases according to the period of construction. There must also be a massive rehousing programme by both the public and private sectors and thought be given to heritage buildings.
“The move, he hopes, will enable the Government to turn the city into a more ethnically mixed entity.”
As a result of the adverse reaction of the public to his interview, the Chief Minister, had been at great pains to hide the fact that the Penang State Government had agreed with the Federal Government on the repeal of the Rent Control Act, and that the various States be given a flexible timeframe to completely phase out the rent-controlled promises.
It is clear that the Penang State Government is intent on his declared objective to repeal the Rent Control Act, although in his over two years as Penang Chief Minister, ha has not taken any action to prepare for the phased decontrol of the pre-war premises in Penang by launching a massive rehousing programme for the 150,000 people in the 12,600 pre-war premises in the state.
The Penang Chief Minister is being very irresponsible in giving the Penang State Government’s agreement to the Federal Government on the repeal of the Rent Control Act, although in phases, without taking any action whatsoever in the last two years to ensure that such phased decontrol in the next few years would take place with a minimum of social and economic hardships, dislocations and upheavals.
If the Penang State Government only wakes up to the need for a re-housing programme when the Rent Control Act had been repealed, then it is too late, because considerable planning as well as time are needed for such a programme.
DAP calls on the Penang State Government to immediately establish a special commission to plan and launch a re-housing programme for the 150,000 people who will affected by the repeal of the Rent Control Act in Penang, and to submit this re-housing programme to the next State Assembly meeting.
One of the greatest flaws of the Penang Strategic Plan to take Penang into the 21st century is that there is no reference whatsoever to the problem that would be created by the repeal of the Rent Control Act , let alone any mention to the great challenge to the State Government to launch a massive rehousing programme to prepare for the decontrol of the pre-war premises in the state.
The only housing strategy that the Penang State Government has for its Strategic Plan to bring Penang into the 21st century is: Pricing low-cost housing realistically”. This was followed by the announcement by the Penang Development Corporation that it would not build low-cost houses below $25,000 on the island.
How could such a housing strategy address the socioeconomic hardships, dislocations and upheavals that would be created by the repeal of the Rent Control Act in Penang?
It would appear that although Penang State Government has no meaningful low-cost housing strategy, particularly a strategy to re-house the people who would be affected by the decontrol of the 12,600 pre-war premises, it has a very clear strategy for the building of golf courses in the state – to the extent that affordable housing for the people who are sacrificed in exchange for unaffordable golf courses.
The DAP Assemblyman for Dato Kramat, K. Balasundram, had told the Assembly on Friday of the case where Penang State Government leaders actively advised and collaborate with a private developer to abandon an approved project for 4,500 low-cost and 2,338 medium-cost units in Relau into a golf course with 1,600 low-cost units – involving a loss of 2,900 low-cost and 2,338 medium-cost units, totaling 5,230 housing units.
Balasundram had named the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Ibrahim Saad, as being fully in the know about the Penang State Government leaders being involved in advising and helping this developer, Pembenaan Fungsi Baik, in abandoning the 5,230 housing units for the more profitable venture of building a golf course.
Is the Penang State Government sending out a signal to all developers that they should abandon their development projects and convert them into golf courses?
Penang State Government more interested in ‘holes for the well-off than houses for the people’
A government back-bencher had defended the golf-course mania in Penang, declaring that a ‘hole in a golf course will bring the State Government an estimated RM1 million in revenue’.
If this is the sole obsession and priority of the State Government, then it is not surprising that it has given such a low priority to low-cost housing or a massive housing programme to resolve the problem created by the decontrol of pre-war houses.
It would appear that the Penang State Government is sending out a clear signal to developers, that it is more interested in holes for the well-off than houses for the people, to the extent that the Penang Deputy Chief Minister deems it his duty to help developers to abandon their approved housing projects to convert them into golf courses.
The DAP is nothing against golf or golf courses, but when it is a choice between holes for the well-off or houses for the people, there can be no doubt as to which should be given top priority.
I would have thought that a responsible State Government would have persuaded Pembenaan Fungsi Baik of its responsibility to carry out its housing development programme for which approval had been given, rather than to collaborate with it to abandon the project and convert it into a golf course.
During question time, I had raised the concerns of the people of Penang at the spate of crimes by Indonesian immigrants – the burglaries, armed robberies, and the gang-rape of a 19-year-old clerk before her parents by three Indonesian immigrants at her Island Glade home last month.
In his answer, the Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, gave statistics to show that in the last few years there has been a fall in the incidents of crime, with 9,570 cases in 1988, falling to 7,761 in 1989, 7,577 in 1990, 6,700 in 1991 and 6,886 cases for the first 10 months of 1992.
The Chief Minister should realise that his answer had not been well received by the people of Penang, for their worries and fears over the recent spate of crimes by Indonesian immigrants, whether legal or illegal, had not been allayed – especially as there is an increasingly large number of Indonesia immigrant worker presence in the state. The Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are themselves given full police protection at all times, but what is the position of the ordinary man and woman in their own home?
I do not have the belabour the point that the purpose of development must be the betterment of the welfare of the people, and that something is very wrong with development if the people become more unsafe in their own home.
The people of Penang are entitled to expect that the authorities, both Federal and State, should take a more serious attitude as to their worries and fears about their personal safety especially in their homes and that all necessary preventive actions should be taken against such spate of crimes.
As the Federal Government is collecting $500 million as levy from the regularisation of Indonesian immigrants as workers, a substantial portion of this should be used to strengthen law and order in the state.
The authorities should review the conditions regulating the presence of the Indonesian immigrant workers, and among the measures which the authorities should seriously consider is the close monitoring of movement of the Indonesian immigrant workers to ensure that they do not resort to crime, especially at neighbourhoods of construction sites where they are employed as construction workers.