GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional refuted the accusation by Pakatan Harapan that Barisan caused the sale of prewar houses to foreigners by repealing the Rent Control Act.
Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow called it a simplistic and wild accusation, as the fast paced sale of prewar houses happened only after 2009.
“The repeal of the Rent Control Act in 1997 was a decision pushed by the then Federal Government under Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad).
“He only gave us three years’ grace period before the repeal fully took effect (in 2000),” he said after launching the manifestos for Barisan Padang Kota and Komtar candidates at the state Gerakan headquarters yesterday.
“We then arranged for the tenants’ resettlement, rental adjustments and other things. It took us a year to get the work done.
“Where was DAP then? What was it doing when the repeal of the Act was tabled in Parliament? Did they object? Did they raise their hands to say no to it? Did they come with (Datuk Lim) Gim Soon (former Komtar assemblyman from MCA), (Lee) Hack Teik (former Pengkalan Kota assemblyman from MCA) and me (former Padang Kota assemblyman) to help those affected?
“They were just issuing press statements,” he said.
“And at that same time, we were preparing George Town to be listed as a world heritage city.
“After 2008, when George Town was listed, big companies and rich individuals started paying attention to the properties.
“The sale of heritage houses to foreigners started to accelerate from 2009 onwards,” he said.
Teng said Barisan spent 18 years since 1990 to prepare George Town and helped its people appreciate, understand and protect the culture, buildings and traditional trades.
“One of the key reasons we wanted to put George Town in the heritage list was to protect our living culture.
“We wanted to generate new tourism products.
“The state government has the authority to stop the sale of properties to foreigners or imposing restrictions, and we had the idea of banning foreigners from buying.
“But when the new government took over, they hardly placed any control and no serious efforts were done,” he said.
He expressed worry that there seemed to be a lack of conservation efforts while renovations to heritage properties could be detrimental to the protection of the city’s architectural treasures.
Earlier, Barisan’s Padang Kota candidate H’ng Khoon Leng launched his election manifesto of 59 initiatives, 18 of which were related to tourism and heritage conservation.
H’ng said he would establish a maintenance and conservation grant and fund of RM30mil for heritage premises.
“I will also establish a heritage building purchase fund of RM50mil for buying back heritage premises from foreigners,” said H’ng.
Its Komtar candidate Tan Hing Teik said he would champion the prevention of foreigners buying prewar houses in the assembly if elected.
“I will ensure that all heritage buildings around Komtar are preserved,” he said.