Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should make effective representations to the Federal Government to at least treble the MAS flghts to Penang from Subang so as to rescue the stateís tourist industry and economy

- launching the "Justice For All" campaign 
in the Nibong Tebal  Parliamentary constituency

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Nibong Tebal, Friday): This is the seventh Parliamentary constituency in Penang where we are launching the DAPís nation-wide "Justice For All" campaign - after Tanjong, Bagan, Bayan Baru, Jelutong, Permatang Pauh and Bukit Mertajam  - so that the people of Penang can be in the forefront in the movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

The three great symbols of the "Justice For All" campaign are the DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, the former Deputy Prime Minister and still MP for Permatang Pauh, Anwar Ibrahim and the burdensome and inequitable highway privatisation concessions and highway tolls.

However, the "Justice For All" campaign is not merely about justice for Guan Eng, Anwar or about the protest against unfair highway privatisation concessions and unfair highway tolls, it is about the cry of 22 million Malaysians for justice, not only in the courts, prisons, highways, but in all areas of national life, whether political, economic, educational, social, cultural, religious, human rights, etc.

It is not only about justice for the people, but also for the various states and the nation.

For this reason, an important plank of the "Justice For All" campaign is  "Justice for Penang" - to ensure that the rights and interests of the Penang state and people are fully protected and advanced.

However, this is not the case.  One example is the status of the Penang International Airport, which was nearly sidelined by the choice  of the Northern Region International Airport on a reclaimed island in Kedah, until the economic crisis came and saved the Penang International Airport.

The Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and the Penang State Government have failed to protect the strategic position of the Penang International Airport and the interests of the state and people of Penang after the opening of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang last June.

Before June, the Penang sector was one of the most lucrative domestic routes of MAS, contributing to a vibrant tourist industry in the state but now, it must be one of the losing propositions of MAS, pulling down the Penang tourist industry and economy with it.

Before KLIA was opened, it was impossible to get seats on MAS flights to Kuala Lumpur from Penang in the early morning flgihts after weekends or holiday breaks unless reservations were made well in advance.

Now, there is no problem in getting seats on these  MAS flights, as they are often under-capacity, even as bad as  having 15 to 20 per cent capacity for MAS flights to KLIA.

This is because the KLIA, described as the "airport for the next century", is too futuristic and  early before its time, and nobody wants to fly to KLIA unless it is absolutely unavoidable because of its remoteness and the time and expense involved.

The MAS flights to Kuala Lumpur through Subang International Airport are always full, but there are only two daily flights from Penang to Subang and vice versa.

As a result, Penangís  tourism, trade and the  economy become  the greatest casualties.

Before the shift from Subang to KLIA, there were as many as 24 flights  a day from Penang to KL, but there are now only 16 flights a day  on this route - 14 to KLIA and two to Subang.

As far back as July, I had highlighted in Parliament the adverse effects of the KLIA to the Penang economy and tourism industry and proposed  the restoration of the Penang-based MAS flights to Kuala Lumpur through the Subang airport.

In the past six months, there had not been a single Gerakan, MCA or UMNO MP from Penang who had supported my call that MAS should shift most  of its Penang-based flights back to the  Subang airport.

Although MAS had shifted two Penang-based flights a day to Subang, this is not adequate. The Penang Chief Minister and State Government should make effective representations with the Federal Government to at least treble the Penang-based flights to KL through Subang, i.e. at least six Penang-KL-Penang flights a day to save Penang tourism and economy.

As the Penang economy is the only loser unless more Penang-based flights are shifted from KLIA to Subang, the Penang Chief Minister and State Government support the "Justice For All", "Justice for Penang" campaign and  ensure the immediate increase of MAS flights to and from Penang through Subang, except for those flights involving international connections.


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