(Penang, Thursday): On January 20,
1999, when launching the "Justice For All" campaign in the Bagan Parliamentary
constituency at Chai Leng Park, Butterworth, I referred to the two most
blatant cases of injustices in Malaysia:
The DAP’s "Justice For Penang" campaign has achieved immediate results and benefitted Penang motorists by RM7.75 million in the freeze in increase of Penang Bridge toll.
One of the five "Justice for Penang" demands in Bagan last month was that there should be no increase of Penang Bridge toll until full economic recovery.
I stressed that there should be no increase of the Penang Bridge toll during the economic crisis, not only because the Penang State Government has a stake in the concession company which privatised the Penang Bridge from the Federal Government in 1993, but also because of the increase in traffic volume resulting in higher revenue for the concessionaire.
Furthermore, the concessionaire had failed to expand the bridge in keeping with the increased traffic volume as required by the privatisation contract.
Yesterday, the Cabinet decided to compensate Intria Bhd. RM7.75 million for this year for not increasing the Penang Bridge toll.
Although I am happy for Penang motorists that they do not have to pay any increase in toll for the Penang Bridge as a result of the DAP’s "Justice For All" and "Justice For Penang" campaigns, I am not really fully satisfied - for the Penang Bridge concessionaire, Intria Bhd has been placed in a position where it will always be the winner whether its demand for Penang Bridge toll is approved or not - for what it cannot get from the motorists, it would get from the government by way of compensation.
This means that while motorists who use the Penang Bridge would not have to pay the extra RM7.75 million in toll increases this year, this amount would be paid by all Malaysians from the taxpayers, whether they use Penang Bridge or not, whether they are from Kelantan, Pahang, Johore, Sabah or Sarawak.
This is also unfair. This is why the Coalition Against Toll had
been formed, comprising opposition parties and NGOs with its demand of
"Five Noes" and "Two Yes", namely:
The demand that there should be no unfair highway toll increase was one of the five "Justice For Penang" Demands, and I must commend all those in Penang who for the past four Sundays had taken part in the nation-wide toll plazas protests called by the Coalition Against Toll to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Cabinet and Government of the people’s protests against unfair highway privatisation, unfair highway tolls and unfair highway toll increases.
The demand for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s black eye and other injuries while under detention was one of the five "Justice for Penang" demands and today is the third day of the investigation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry as to police person/persons responsible for the dastardly crime of inflicting the serious injuries on Anwar when he was in police custody.
The other two "Justice for Penang" demands which I outlined a
month ago were:
At the launching of the "Justice For All" campaign in the Nibong Tebal Parliamentary constituency on 5th February, I added another "Justice for Penang" demand, to upgrade 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, Penang’s 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.
Although MAS had shifted two Penang-based flights a day to Subang, this is not adequate. Penang wants least a trebling of 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.
I will propose to the Penang DAP State Committee that it organises
a "Justice For Penang" conference which will give all sectors of
Penang society and opinion an opportunity to come together to give greater
content and meaning to the "Justice For Penang" campaign.