EPF should take over the North-South Expressway concessionaire if PLUS has lost RM 7.4 billion since 1989

Speech (2)
- DAP Public Forum on "Justice For All"

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Penang, Monday): The injustices meted out to Anwar Ibrahim has virtually made Malaysia synonymous with Anwar. Previously,  the world had identified Malaysia with the Twin Towers as the tallest building in the world, but now  Malaysia is identified  with Anwar’s black eye, a national badge of shame and infamy.

This is probably why although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad personally attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Anwar was not absent either.  Mahathir had not only to talk about Anwar’s case,  US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin  also made reference to Anwar.  According to a wire report, when replying to a question about who was to blame for the Asian economic  crisis, the "crony capitalism" that built up huge debts or the  investors who lent them the money, Mr Rubin chose to cite Anwar.

Rubin told a media conference in Davos: "I remember Anwar Ibrahim once said, and it was a very good comment,  that for every bad borrower there's a bad lender and I think Anwar had  it exactly right."

The Anwar case has shaken up the country to its very roots for the simple reason that if a person who was until recently the occupant of the second highest
government post in the country can  be manhandled and assaulted by the police in the very inner sanctum of the police high command, and for four months, the authorities concerned could not find out the police person or persons responsible,  how can ordinary Malaysians feel safe under the Malaysian sun when they fall into the hands of the police when  they ran afoul of the law or otherwise?

Malaysians must enlist and support the "Justice For All" campaign not just for the sake of Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim, but for the sake of all Malaysians and our children and children’s children.

The justice that we seek is not merely  justice in the courts and prisons, but justice in its most  encompassing sense to cover  political, economic, educational, social, cultural, human rights and all that  represent the hallmarks of a civil society!

This is why there is now a Coalition Against Toll comprising political parties and NGOs which called for a nation-wide  simultaneous and spontaneous protest by the Malaysian people at the toll plazas yesterday against unfair highway privatisation and unfair tolls.

Twelve years ago, in opposing the North-South Expressway privatisation to the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) because of improprieties in the tender exercise, conflict of interest, lack of accountability and transparency and one-sided terms inimical to the interests of Malaysians for three decades, I coined the word "piratisation" to describe the most rapacious aspects of the Barisan Nasional privatisation programme.

Mahathir said the government had given the North-South Expressway privatisation to  UEM, owned by UMNO trustee company, Hatibudi Sdn. Bhd.,  as otherwise how was UMNO to pay for its  $360 million UMNO Headquarters, the Putra World Trade Centre?

Having helped UMNO pay for the RM360 million PWTC, PLUS now tells Malaysians that it has been operating the North-South Expressway concession at a loss of RM7.4 billion since 1989. It said its toll collection for the 1989-1998 period was RM4.7 billion and another RM314.5 million from other sources while its expenditures for the period was RM12.5 billion.

Can the Malaysian public accept this explanation, when everybody knows that PLUS, with the North-South Expressway concession, is in fact the crown jewel of the Renong conglomerate, the cash cow of the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) which wholly owns the toll-operator of the 900-km NSE.

If PLUS is in such a such bad financial straits, then the Employees Provident Fund can  take over from PLUS as the toll-operator of North-South Expressway, including  all its debts, liabilities and assets.  Are  PLUS, Renong and UEM prepared to relinquish to EPF  the concession as NSE toll-operator, as it had caused PLUS to lose RM7.4 billion since 1989?

I had warned in 1987 that if the privatisation of North-South Expressway is not challenged to make it accountable and  transparent, we will end up in a situation where it could be said:
        'For Whom the Road Tolls?
        It Tolls for UMNO!'

This was the reason why I was detained for a second time under the Internal Security Act during the Operation Lalang crackdown, together with DAP Deputy National Chairman, Karpal Singh, who was my lawyer who succeeded in getting an interim injunction to stop  UEM from signing the privatisation concession  although the UEM claimed in court that it would be losing RM2 million a day from the injunction.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong