Johor state govt to go ahead with tabling controversial housing Bill

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Johor state government will go ahead with the tabling of a controversial housing Bill which has raised strong concerns Malaysia.

Malaysia's constitutional experts say that the Johor Housing and Real Property Enactment Board Bill 2014 would enable the Johor Sultan to meddle in the affairs of the state government.

Among other things, the Bill will empower the Sultan to appoint board members, oversee its accounts and also dissolve the board, they say.

Attempting to clarify, Johor's Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin insisted that the Sultan of Johor will not have direct executive control under the proposed Bill.

The executive powers remain with the Mentri Besar who would automatically assume the post of chairman of the board under the proposed enactment, he said on Saturday.

He also pointed out that under the Bill, the Mentri Besar will head the Johor Housing and Realty Property Board (JHRPB) while the board's members would include the state housing executive committee and the state Economic Planning Unit director.

"These appointments cannot be changed even by the Sultan and the board will advise the Ruler about housing matters in Johor," he added.

"The main objectives of the JHRPB is to ensure there are enough affordable homes," he said after attending a cycling programme at Permas Jaya here.

The Bill is expected to be table at the state assembly sitting on Monday.

Concerns have been expressed on the Bill by both sides of the political divide. Both the ruling Barisan Nasional and opposition Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen have said there would be a clear conflict of interest as the Johor Ruler was involved in business including property development.

The assemblymen have been seeking clarification from the State Legal Officer on various clauses since receiving copies of the Bill about two weeks ago.

Constitutional law expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said the Sultan could play an active role in state administration including that of checks and balances without getting involved in the manner spelt out in the proposed Bill.

"The proposed Bill by the Johor government will allow the Sultan to have direct involvement in the state administration. It is unnecessary and may compromise the concept of constitutional monarchy practised in Malaysia," he stressed.

Two Barisan Nasional assemblymen, who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity, called for the Bill to be deferred to allow for more time to scrutinise it.

"The power to establish the board lies with the Johor State Assembly and as such, the powers to revoke or disband it should lie with the Assembly," said one of the assemblymen.

Johor Opposition Leader Dr Boo Cheng Hau, who expressed concern, said Pakatan Rakyat would soon make an official stand after a meeting with its assemblymen.