KUCHING: Opposition leaders here have questioned the legality of the City North Commission's Ops Sita exercise to seize moveable assets of errant ratepayers to recover assessment arrears.
Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen likened Ops Sita to a loan shark pressuring debtors to pay up.
Chong, also Bandar Kuching MP, said he was shocked over the commission’s way of dealing with ratepayers, adding that it had set a bad example.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat state liaison chairman Wan Zainal Abidin Senusi said the commission should not have resorted to seizing the ratepayers’ moveable property as this would not solve the problem.
Instead, he said, it should find alternative means to recover the arrears, such as through asking ratepayers to settle the payment in instalments over a reasonable period of time.
Enforcement officers from the City North Commission started its tough action last Thursday when they seized several electrical items from the home of a ratepayer at Taman Sukma.
After items are seized, ratepayers are given a week to settle their arrears, failing which the belongings would be auctioned off to offset what they owed the commission.
City North Commission Datuk Bandar Abdul Hamid Yusoff had warned ratepayers of the stiff measures three months ago.
On the Opposition's criticisms, he said the DAP and Keadilan could take the matter to court.
Abdul Hamid said residential, commercial and industrial property owners owed the commission an accumulated assessment arrears of RM17mil since 1990.
The commission was set up in 1988 when Kuching was declared a city.
“l have instructions from the state government to make sure that the commission does not run at a deficit.
“Nobody wants to be the bad guy, and l am just doing my job (to recover the arrears),” he added.
Abdul Hamid said the commission was lenient as the ratepayers in Negri Sembilan, for example, had to pay 50% surcharge on their assessment arrears.