Youth wing says massive wave of purchases by foreigners driving out old trades
PETALING JAYA: Penang Gerakan Youth has accused the DAP-run state government of being “elated” by a wave of purchases of heritage property by foreigners and has questioned the state’s silence on a planning guide for the heritage zone.
Youth wing secretary Ooi Zhi Yi questioned why no official announcement had been made about the supplementary publicity programme for the “Planning and Design Guide for Public Realm” of the special area plan for the George Town heritage zone.
Ooi asked if the guidelines had been finalised and why no official announcement had been made about it.
He reminded the state government of objections by George Town city dwellers, especially those living in the clan jetties.
The state government was obliged to make public the finalised guidelines to ensure that the people’s opinions and wishes were heard and adopted. “Otherwise public consultation done before outlining guidelines tantamount to zero,” said Ooi.
The state government is embarking on the publicity programme as an addendum to the SAP of George Town’s Unecso World Heritage Site.
It is being handled by the state Town and Country Planning Department in collaboration with the Penang Island City Council, George Town World Heritage Incorporated, Think City Sdn Bhd and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The planning guide complements the Special Area Plan by providing a framework that combines conservation and development.
Ooi also criticised Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for blaming repeal of the Rent Control Act for driving out old trades in George Town.
He said the end of rent control was a national policy which took effect in Penang in 2000, which was 15 years ago.
It was irresponsible for Lim to pin all blame on the previous state government, especially when the causes were due to the current administration’s incompetency to administer and formulate a good policy to resolve pending problems.
He said many old tenants would have already moved out of George Town at the time of repeal. Those who remained in the city were now facing evictions by the new owners of the heritage houses.
“This issue of eviction now fell within the ambit of the current Pakatan Harapan government. But the current state government has failed to formulate effective policies to help these old traders,” said Ooi.
The Gerakan youth leader said that after the repeal of the Rent Control Act, the previous BN state government formulated some policies to help in containing and to make the George Town old folks stay back by building low and low medium cost houses in the town to accommodate these old tenants.
This, he said was to ensure perpetuity of the old trades as well as preservation of the non-physical culture of George Town.
However, he said regrettably currently there were massive purchases of the houses and buildings, especially the heritage houses in George Town by foreign consortiums.
Ironically, he said the Penang state government seemed to be “rather elated” by this wave of massive purchases of the heritage houses by foreigners and was helping to promote the sales of heritage buildings and houses.
“This is the main cause of the old trades being driven out of George Town,” Ooi claimed.