(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I have invited the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, or in his place, the Deputy Works Minister, to the meeting of MPs and NGOs at Parliament House on Tuesday on unfair highway tolls to explain why the Cabinet had approved new toll rate increases and introduced new tolls which have not taken the interests of the public in general and the motorists in particular into full account.
Apart from a highway contract which is one-sided and totally unfair to the motorists as well as the Malaysian taxpayers, what justificiation is there for the North-South Expressway concessionaire, Project Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS), to demand an annual toll rate increase, when it is already collecting over RM1 billion from toll a year?
In July, 1997, the Cabinet directed the Works Ministry to study whether highway toll rates can be reduced to ease the burdens of the people. The study specifically referred to the agreement between the Government and Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS), the concessionaire of the North-South Expressway.
Had the special study by the Works Ministry been a colossal waste of time, money and public resources?
I call on Samy Vellu to make public the recommendations and proposals of this special review completed by Works Ministry last year and explain whether the Cabinet had acted on these recommendations when it approved new toll rates for North-South Highway and three other expressways to be implemented after the Chinese New Year.
I am glad to see that it is not just the DAP which is protesting against the unfair new toll rate increases and the introduction of unfair new tolls, and that some lower-ranking MCA leaders and organisations are also organising demonstrations of protests.
The DAP is prepared to work with any political party, whether MCA, Gerakan, MIC or UMNO in government or Parti Rakyat or PAS in opposition for the best interests of the people.
In opposing unfair toll rates increases or the introduction of unfair new tolls, the DAP is prepared to fully co-operate with the MCA.
I am prepared to meet with MCA Ministers and leaders to work out a common action plan to get the government to rescind the Cabinet decision to approve the unfair toll rate increases as well as the introduction of unfair new tolls.
Tomorrow, the Selangor/Federal Territory DAP and the MCA Youth are organising protest demonstrations against the very steep and unfair new tolls at the new Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LPD).
I have no objections if the two Selangor/Federal Territory DAP and MCA Youth demonstrations against the LPD tolls are combined into one to show that even the ordinary MCA rank-and-file cannot support and defend the unfair toll rate increases and unfair new tolls.
Samy Vellu owes the LPD motorists a public apology when on Wednesday, he derided their proposal for a 50-sen toll instead of a RM1.50 toll, retorting: "Better if they just ask for one-sen toll!"
The Works Minister should stop the LPD concessionaire, Lingkaran Lebuhraya Transkota Snd. Bhd. from begin collecting tolls on Monday (January 25), as an acceptable alternative route promised to all motorists affected by tolled highways is not ready.
Samy Vellu last Wednesday ordered the LPD concessionaire to stop work on the proposed alternative route for Bandar Sri Damansara residents because of objections by the residents about its unsuitability. This only means that another more acceptable alternative route must be found and built first before Litrak can start collecting toll at LPD.
The second reason why the LPD toll collection should not begin on Monday is because the Cabinet had been misled into approving the high toll rates of RM1.50 at each of the four toll plazas of the 40 km expressway. Samy Vellu himself admitted that the LPD toll is too high although he justified it on the ground that it had cost RM1.3 billion, because of 12 interchanges each costing between RM25 and RM35 million.
Have all the Cabinet Ministers been properly briefed that the proposed LPD tolls were too high before the Cabinet gave its approval? The presumption must be in the negative, as otherwise why is the MCA, which has four Ministers in the Cabinet, also protesting against the LPD tolls?