(Jelutong, Monday): In the first nation-wide toll plazas protest against unfair highway privatisation concessions and unfair tolls called by the Coalition Against Toll (CAT) yesterday, protests were held in over 20 toll plazas in the country involving a few thousand people.
The second nation-wide toll plazas protest next Sunday promises to be an even bigger one and closer to the target of 100 toll plazas protest countrywide on the same Sunday morning.
The unfair highway privatisation concessions and unfair toll rates imposes great hardships on all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, class or even political beliefs.
As even UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC members are also victims of unfair highway privatisation concessions and unfair toll rates, I call on UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC branches and members to join in the second nation-wide toll plazas protest next Sunday morning to make it an all-party popular demand for justice.
As yesterday was the first nation-wide toll plazas protest called by CAT, the second protest next Sunday would be more organised and co-ordinated and be able to get the support of more Malaysians.
The CAT will set up a co-ordinating secretariat in each state for people who wish to take part in the nation-wide toll plazas protest to contact.
The nation-wide toll plazas protest yesterday is a clear message to the government that the time has come for it to conduct a full public review of the highway privatisation programme involving all political parties, whether in government or opposition, NGOs and the Malaysian public as well as consider the hardships and injustices it has caused to the people in the past 12 years of multiplying toll plazas and mounting toll rates.
The Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday should give serious consideration and approve the establishment of a Highways Consultative Council which could conduct such a public review of the 12-year highway privatisation programme.
Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday that the Cabinet will discuss requests by several state governments to allow several highway projects to go on after the Cabinet decided on the cancellation of new highway projects.
Samy Vellu had said that 20 privatised highway projects would be shelved as a result of the Cabinet decision.
In the first instance, Samy Vellu should make public the whole list of the 20 privatised highway projects which are being shelved by the Government.
Secondly, the issue whether any of the 20 privatised highway projects should be allowed to go on as being requested by some State Governments should be referred to the Highways Consultative Council to ensure that the viewpoints and interests of the motorists as well as the general public are fully represented in such a consideration.
The CAT will be hold a second meeting in Petaling Jaya tomorrow to review the first nation-wide toll plazas protest yesterday and future course of action. I would propose at the CAT meeting tomorrow that instead of nation-wide toll plazas protest at 10 a.m. on Sunday, there should be more flexibility by allowing the toll plazas protest to be held on Sunday morning.
One special focus of next Sunday’s nation-wide toll plaza protest will be the Jalan Kuching toll plaza in Kuala Lumpur, which is supposed to become toll-free on the expiry of the nine-year concession on January 8, 1996.
However, the Jalan Kuching toll concession was extended for seven years in exchange for a road upgrading project. As a result, the motorists using the Jalan Kuching Toll Plaza never had the opportunity to enjoy using Jalan Kuching as a toll-free highway for a single day on the expiry of Kamunting’s highway concession in January 1996 and not much has been seen with regard to the new road upgrading project either.
The Jalan Kuching Toll Concession is the best example that all
the government talk about highways and expressways, including the North-South
Expressway, become toll free when they revert to the ownership of
the Government at the end of the concession is mere empty talk.