(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Although the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has not given the details of the new tolls increases to be implemented in four expressways after the Chinese New Year next month, he yesterday defended the government’s decision to approve the toll rates increases.
He said that the motorists would have to bear 40 per cent of the increased amount sought, as the government would be bearing the remaining 60 per cent.
Without disclosing the new toll rates, Samy Vellu said the four concessionaires would still get the quantum of increase they sought. The four concessionaires are North South Expressway (Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan Bhd - Plus), North-South Central Link (Expressway Lingkaran Tengah Sdn. Bhd), Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas Sdn. Bhd) and the Kulim-Butterworth Expressway (Konsortium Lebuhraya Kulim-Butterworth Sdn. Bhd).
The Works Minister however caused public confusion when different newspapers report different figures of what the government compensation would come to. The Star quoted Samy Vellu as saying that the government compensation to the four concessionaires would amount to RM80 million, while The Sun reported a figure of RM115 million, being 60 per cent of the RM192 million compensation which the government paid to the concessionaires last year.
This is a most unsatisfactory and unprofessional way for a Minister to discharge his ministerial duties of public accountability and I call on Samy Vellu to give full details about all decisions taken by the Cabinet about the toll rates increases.
It would appear that Samy Vellu has degenerated from Works Minister to Minister for the Expressway Concessionaires, whose duties is how to ensure that the concessionaires get the toll rates they want by distributing the direct toll burden between the motorists and the government.
The tragedy is that even when the toll rate increases as demanded by the concessionaires are reduced for the motorists, it is the Malaysian taxpayers who finally have to pay the bill by way of government compensation for the shortfalls in toll revenues.
This is gross injustice, not only to the motorists but to the Malaysian taxpayers. DAP calls for an immediate freeze of all toll rate increases until Parliament has an opportunity to debate and approve them. I call for unity from MPs regardless of party, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, to take a common stand on the issue of burdensome and oppressive toll rates increases.
The freeze should also apply to the Sungai Besi and and Cheras-Kajang Expressway, and Samy Vellu should stop the two concessionaires concerned to from collecting tolls at their toll plazas until Parliament had met to debate the tolls issue.