Drop the charges: The real issue is low wages, inadequate housing for the poor

FILE

Aliran is dismayed at the recent charging of R Karthiges and M Nathan under Section 186 of the Penal Code ie obstructing a public servant from carrying out his/her duties. Both men are jointly accused of preventing an officer from sealing units at the People’s Housing Projects (PPR) in Rifle Range in early June this year.

Both of them had highlighted the problems of families facing eviction which ultimately led to Aliran being involved in facilitating a discussion between the state housing authorities and four of the affected families. The matter was discussed amicably and respectfully and three families were given an option of alternative housing on the mainland. As far as Aliran was concerned, the matter was settled. So it was to our surprise to read of charges being laid against these two men.

It is understood that the housing department officers and the enforcement teams have their jobs to do which at times is difficult and not very pleasant. At the same time, the fear and desperation felt by families terrified of losing their homes and the trauma of being evicted (especially when there are no affordable alternatives) must also be understood.

It would be wrong to see the situation as one of housing department officers, including those in the enforcement team, pitted against families and those trying to help the families. Rather, the situation indicates a systemic problem of inadequate housing for lower-income and low-wage groups – not just in Penang but across the country. It is also a stark reminder of the urgent need for the government to tackle issues such as decent minimum wages, job security and enough decent affordable housing for the economically disadvantaged.

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It makes no sense to Aliran to waste court time and money over two people who were just trying to help families who were losing their homes. If there is to be any culprit in this situation, then let it be the problem of low wages and inadequate low-income housing.

Aliran calls for the dropping of charges against both these men.

Aliran executive committee
8 July 2017

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