Evicting tenants of Penang low-cost flats against the law, says lawyer

Lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz speaking to evicted families from the Taman Manggis PPR at Komtar today.

GEORGE TOWN: The eviction of families from the People’s Housing Project (PPR) apartment units in Penang is illegal under federal laws, says a lawyer working for seven of 22 affected families.

Lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz said a court order was required prior to repossessing any property under Section 7(2) of the Specific Relief Act, 1950.

Under the act, an owner can only repossess the property once the tenant vacates it with his belongings. However, in the current case, the tenants’ belongings were still in the units.

The PPR flat, which costs RM124 to rent, are offered to those earning a household income of below RM1,500. The families were evicted on Wednesday after a one-week extension to an earlier eviction attempt.

The families were evicted for longstanding arrears, higher incomes and marrying foreign spouses.

The Penang government says it had been notifying the residents about evictions for the past six months.

The lawyer further added that eviction was also against the spirit of the Federal Constitution under Article 13, which deals with the right to property.

The Penang government had “trespassed and committed a criminal act” by evicting the residents, he added.

The lawyer claimed that the evicting officers had threatened to lock up occupants at the time of eviction. This act was tantamount to illegal confinement and they could be sued for unlawful detention.

“So, we have written a letter to the state secretary Farizan Darus saying that a letter dated March 5 asking the 22 families to leave their homes is ‘tidak sah and terbatal’ (null and void).

“In order to get vacant possession from any tenant, one must get a court order. This is against the rule of law,” he said when contacted for clarification.

Khairul said the seven families that he represents are considering a lawsuit against the Penang government.

Earlier today, the state government gave a three-day reprieve until Monday to allow them to clear out their belongings.

Meanwhile, the families have been invited for a briefing with state officials. It is learnt only four people are allowed for each session.