ARMED with iron cutters and bars, a group of Penang Island City Council (MBPP) workers broke padlocks and door chains to enter five abandoned units in Rifle Range Flats today after their owners failed to respond to notices asking them to clean up their premises.
Accompanying them were some policemen and other general workers from MBPP who came with washing liquid and brooms.
The first unit which they entered was nauseating, with bird carcasses, droppings, live pigeons, eggs and innumerable feathers found at its back portion. The unit was without furniture and its floor was generally covered with thick dirt.
State Local Government, Housing, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said MBPP had to resort to the drastic action as they found 37 abandoned units in Rifle Range Flats with 16 of them “causing a nuisance” to their neighbours and community.
“We cannot simply enter an individual’s house but there are provisions in the law that allow us to enter the premises if they pose a nuisance.
“The residents here have appealed to us and among the issues raised is that the abandoned units have become a nesting place for birds.
“We’ll not compromise if there is activity that poses a threat to our health and security. This does not only apply to Rifle Range Flats but also to other housing schemes,” Jagdeep told a press conference at the MPKK office in Rifle Range today.
He added that MBPP would send the bill for the cleanup to the respective unit owner to settle and at the same time, the penalty for the unit owner for not taking any action is RM250 per day.
He said since June this year, MBPP has identified 37 privately owned units in Rifle Range Flats being left idle.
Out of these units, 16 have nuisance issue with five of them becoming pigeon nests, one with a tree in it, two full of garbage and dust, four with problematic balcony doors and four filled with a lot of stuff and materials.
Just recently too, the bird infestation issue was highlighted by two newspapers.
Jagdeep said in accordance with the Local Government Act 1976, Section 82 states clearly that any disturbance should be tackled immediately and it is under the jurisdiction of the local authority.
So, he instructed the MBPP to issue notices to the owners of the 16 units on July 13 and July 14.
And since nothing was done, he said MBPP followed up by giving the owners a 24-hour notice on July 16 before deciding to enter the units to carry out cleaning works although it is the responsibility of the unit owners.
He said MBPP was exercising this power under Section 83 of the Roads, Drains and Building Act 1974.
In the latest inspection by MBPP yesterday, only one of the 16 units carried out cleaning works itself while the other 15 units still failed to comply.
Jagdeep also said they are also seeking to repossess the units from those who owe arrears to the government.
“The state government is concerned with the welfare of the people and has come out with a rent-to-own scheme for the lower-income group to own a house.
“But unfortunately, there are some of the tenants who do not appreciate this initiative and have left their units idle and damaged,” he said.
Jagdeep also revealed that the state government hopes to implement its urban regeneration project, beginning with the 5-point block Mahsuri Flats in Bayan Baru in December this year.
He added that there are some legal obstacles which he hopes would be resolved by the Federal Government.
He said there are a lot of aged public housing schemes in the state and the state government would start with the Mahsuri Flats as the pilot project.
The other schemes the government has in mind are Rifle Range Flats and Taman Free School Flats in Penang island and the Mak Mandin Flats and Jalan Siakap Flats in Seberang Perai.
“The state government has spent millions of dollars in helping to maintain the old public housing schemes.
“The Rifle Range Flats, for instance, were built 51 years ago and the unit size is small, about 300 to 400sq ft. Now, a low-cost home is no less than 700sq ft.
“So, besides reducing the cost of maintenance, the regeneration project will provide bigger units for the residents and more recreational spaces,” said Jagdeep, who has also asked Kebun Bunga assemblyman Jason Ong to get back feedback from the Rifle Range residents.
According to Ong, a design competition was held for the rejuvenation project for Rifle Range Flats in 2010 when he was a first-term assemblyman.
He said together with Bukit Bendera MP Wong Hon Wai, they would soon conduct a survey to get the reaction from the residents.
Also present at the press conference were MBPP secretary Datuk Addnan Mohd Razali, state Housing Department director Ainul Fadhilah Samsudi, senior principal assistant secretary Fakhrurrazi Ibnu Omar and principal assistant secretary Mohd Fauzy Mohd Yusoff.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Law Suun Ting