The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress views with utmost concern the eviction of tenants from their Taman Manggis homes by the Penang state government.
The scales of compassion and social justice ought to have been the overriding consideration over the state government’s unilateral rules on the eligibility of occupation of the homes allocated to the poor.
As we understand it, the evictions are being justified on the grounds that, among other issues, the occupants’ incomes have exceeded the limits set by the authorities.
On this score, the issue is whether the affected people’s incomes have taken them out of the bottom 40% of households. The Penang MTUC thus calls upon the state government to disclose the income levels of all those who stand deprived of their homes to see if they have moved out of the bottom 40%.
Regardless of income levels, the government has a moral obligation to provide affordable housing to the middle and low-income wage earners of the nation.
We, nevertheless, take cognisance of the fact that it is easier said then done. That, however, cannot justify the state government’s action in throwing the Taman Manggis citizens into the streets, the result being they become part of the statistics for homelessness in Penang.
While the state government is determined to proceed with the creation of massive artificial islands in the name of bringing development, where is the focus on affordable homes that are to be built in the reclaimed islands? Obviously, the state is paying lip service to the plight of the bottom 40% and middle 40% of the people in contrast to the interests of the capitalist class.
Penang MTUC therefore demands that all the tenants so displaced from their Taman Manggis homes be given back their homes. We also call upon the state to give utmost consideration in providing affordable homes for the B40 and M40 in the state.
K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang divison of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.