Five "Justice for Penang" proposals on local government rebate on IWK charge, five-year extension of Rent Control  (Repeal) Act, no toll increase for Penang bridge, no unfair expresssway toll increase and royal commission of inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye"

- launching the "Justice For All" campaign

in the Bagan Parliamentary constituency
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Bagan, Wednesday): On 12th January 1999, the DAP launched the nation-wide "Justice For All" campaign to ensure that Malaysians enjoy justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

The two most blatant cases of injustices in Malaysia is the case of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng and the former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Guan Eng is coming to his fifth month of imprisonment in Kajang Prison, not because he is a criminal who had committed crimes like armed robbery, arson, rape, murder or criminal breach of trust  but because he had defended the honour, dignity, human rights and women rights of an underaged 15-year-old - a victim of statutory rape.

Guan Eng should be commended rather than jailed for being a conscientious Parliamentarian who acted as a model Malaysian, as  he is the first Malaysian  Member of Parliament who is paying a  heavy personal price for going to the help of another Malaysian of another race.

Anwar’s case is another gross manifestation of injustice.  If a person who was until recently holding the second highest post in the land as the  Deputy Prime Minister could be assaulted while under police custody until he still spotted a black eye when produced in court ten days later, how can there be safety and security for ordinary Malaysians under the Malaysian sun?

It is for this reason that the "Justice For All" campaign has been launched, not just for Guan Eng or Anwar’s sake, but for the sake of 21 million Malaysians so that they can live in justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

The "Justice For All" movement  is not just about legal justice, but embraces justice in its most comprehensive sense - covering political, economic, educational, social, cultural, religious, human rights, etc.

"Justice For All" also means justice for Penang state and the Malaysian nation.

The "Justice For All" campaign will be launched throughout the country in the next 12 months.  There will be a launching in every state, town, new village, kampong, estate as well as in each parliamentary and state assembly constituency.

Penang is the second state after the Federal Territory to launch the "Justice For All" campaign in Georgetown last Friday, but the first  state to have launching in two parliamentary constituencies - namely Tanjong and Bagan.

Let me tonight  make five proposals from the perspective of "Justice for Penang" covering  local government rebate on IWK charge, five-year extension of Rent Control (Repeal) Act,  no toll increase for Penang bridge, no unfair expresssway toll increase and a royal commission of inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye".

1. Rebate by MPSP and MPPP for IWK sewerage charge

The National Economic Action Council (NEAC) had proposed in its National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) that local governments should give a rebate  to relieve the burden of sewerage costs of all ratepayers.

The NERP had  echoed the complaint of all ratepayers that "Customers do not want to pay twice for the same service" and that "Local authorities need to give a rebate on sewerage costs to consumers from assessment rates once IWK takes over the services", but  both the MPSP and the MPPP do not seem to be prepared to implement this NERP recommendation on giving rebate on IWK sewerage charges.

"Justice for Penang" demands that MPSP and MPPP should live up to the state motto, "Penang Leads", and be the first state in the country  to implement the NERP’s proposed  rebate from the ratepayers’ assessment rates  in view of the second  IWK sewerage charge, and which should have full retrospective effect.

The MPSP and MPPP ratepayers have a right to know  why the Penang State Government and the two Penang Municipal Councils have failed to act on the NERP proposal for the past six months since the publication of the NERP.

2.  Five-year extension of the Rent Control (Repeal) Act

The DAP had proposed a  Charter for Justice for tenants of pre-war premises, disputing the equity of a 28-month period for the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966 when there should at least be a five-year rent decontrol period.

As the bulk of the pre-war premises are in Penang, which constitute about one-third of the controlled premises in the country, the Penang State Government should take the initiative to suspend the decontrol of the pre-war premises  until after the end of the national economic crisis.

At it stands now, all the pre-war premises would be decontrolled by 31st December 1999, when there would be no check or limit on rental increases, whether it be hundreds or thousands-fold increase.

At a time when the people are  going through an unprecedented economic crisis, with the state government unable to ensure that there are adequate affordable accommodation to rehouse all affected tenants or that there would be no socio-economic injustice and hardship in the process of rent  decontrol, the most equitable solution is for the rent decontrol legislation to be extended by another five years.

I would urge the Penang State Government to take the initiative to ask the Federal Government to move an amendment Bill in the April meeting of Parliament to provide for such a five-year extension for the Rent Control (Repeal) Act, which would also set out the legally permissible quantum of rental increases during this extended five-year period rather than giving landlords the right of a "free for all" increase.

3.  No Unfair Toll Rate Increase or New Toll

The announcement by the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu that the Cabinet has given approval for toll rates increases for four expressways, namely the North-South Expressway, the Kulim-Butterworth Expressway, Shah Alam-Kajang Expressway and  Elite Expressway after the Chinese New Year has created nation-wide outrage.

Both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Samy Vellu had sought to assure the people that the toll rate increases, details of which have not yet been disclosed, are reasonable and "minimal" as the government would be absorbing 60 per cent of the actual increase.

This  is double injustice - injustice to the motorists who use the expressways and who will  have to pay increased toll rates next month to provide for 40 per cent of the new toll revenues of the highway concessionaires; and an injustice to the Malaysian population at large, including those who do not use the expressways, but who still have to bear the burden of paying 60 per cent of the new toll revenues from taxes running into hundreds of millions of ringgit a year!

The people of Penang should stand side by side with Malaysians in the rest of the country to demand justice, accountability and transparency, and insist on two basic demands, "No Unfair Toll Rate Increase/New Toll" and "No Compensation from Public Funds".

4.  No increase of Penang Bridge toll until full economic recovery

In this connection, the Penang Chief Minister,  Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should publicly give an assurance that there would 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 has failed to expand the bridge in keeping with the increased traffic volume as required by the privatisation contract.

5.  Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s black eye and other injuries while under detention.

Finally, as Anwar is from Penang, the fifth proposal of "Justice for Penang" is to demand for the immediate establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the former Deputy Prime Minister’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody and to bring to book, regardless of position, all   those responsible for perpetrating such heinous crime in the very inner sanctum of the police high command at Bukit Aman.

Malaysians have a right to express their outrage at Anwar’s "black eye", not only for the sake of the former Deputy Prime Minister but in the interests of all Malaysians - as how could ordinary Malaysians feel safe and secure if they ran afoul of the police if a person who had just held the second highest government post in the country could be assaulted while under police custody until he still spotted a black eye when produced in court ten days later?


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