(Kuala Lumpur, Monday): The Works Minister, Datuk Seri S.Samy Vellu will be officiating the opening of the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LPD) in five hours’ time and I call on him to announce that until there is a full review of the protests and objections of the nearly one million people who will be affected by the LPD, there will be no toll collection, or at maximum a 50-sen toll at each of the four toll plazas.
Collecting RM1.50 toll at each of the four LPD toll plazas, i.e. 15 sen per km, will make LDP the most expensive in the country.
There should be no toll or at most a 50-sen toll until a full review as the LPD concessionaire has not fulfilled its promise to provide an alternative route at this intersection. Although it was the Works Minister who ordered the concessionaire, Litrak, to stop building the alternative route because of objections by the residents on the ground of its unsuitability, Litrak should first identiy and build a suitable alternative route for the affected residents before start collecting toll.
The DAP is calling a meeting of the people affected by the LPD on Saturday, 30th January 1999 at 7 p.m. so that the authorities concerned, whether the concessionaire, the Works Minister or even the Cabinet, can take a measure of the depth and strength of popular objections to the steep toll rates and the lack of suitable alternative routes. The venue of the meeting of affected LPD residents and motorists will be announced and I hope there will be a huge turnout at this meeting.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday rejected my demand that the government make public the North-South Highway concession. He said in Alor Star that there was no need to do so because "if we make public one agreement, they will ask for a thousand more agreements."
Abdullah is right, as it is not only the North-South Expressway concession which should be made public, all highway agreements should be made public, because they concern not only the Government but the Malaysian people who have to pay unfair tolls to the concessionaires, whether directly in tolls at the various toll plazas or indirectly in the form of taxes in the form of government compensation to the concessionaires.
Why should the highway concession agreements be treated as a secret, as if their disclosure would undermine the security and stability of Malaysia, if the the Barisan Nasional government believes in accountability, transparency and good governance?
I therefore reiterate my call to the government to make public the North-South Expressway concession as well as other highway agreements.
I hope there will be Ministers who will have the courage to raise in Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting the people’s demand for accountability and transparency by the government by making public the highway concession agreements.
As the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik has said that he would raise the tolls issue at the Cabinet on Wednesday, he should also ask the Cabinet to take a policy decision to make public the North-South Expressway concession as well as all other highway agreements to convince Malaysians that the government has nothing to hide in its highway privatisation programme.
Samy Vellu said yesterday that he will present to the Cabinet in two weeks’ time a fresh report on the complaints and appeals from Malaysians on the proposed high expressway toll charges.
Samy Vellu should have sought the views and opinions of the people before asking the Cabinet to approve the unfair new toll rate increases and unfair new tolls. Samy Vellu had failed in his duty to the people when he put the cart before the horse and got the Cabinet to approve the unfair toll rates without first seeking the views of the people.
Samy Vellu complained that he had been singled out for blame for the unfair toll rates increases when this was the decision of the Cabinet, but Samy Vellu has only himself to blame for he had often acted more as a Minister for Tolls, looking after the interersts of the concessionaires, rather than as a Minister fror the people upholding public interest.
However, as Samy Vellu is going to prepare a fresh report on the people’s complaints and appeals on the proposed high expressway toll charges to the Cabinet in two weeks’ time, Malaysians should make full use of these two weeks to make clear their strong objection to unfair toll rates and unfair highway concession agreements.
For this purpose, I propose that there should be a nation-wide protest by Malaysians at all the toll plazas in the country on Sunday at 10 a.m. to demand that the Cabinet respect strong popular demand for fair toll rates and fair highway concession agreements, including the renegotiation of all unfair concession contracts.
Let Malaysians throughout the country come out to the various toll plazas in a peaceful and spontaneous protest, with their own placards and slogans, to show to the Cabinet what they think of the unfair toll rates and unfair highway concessions.
I have convened a meeting at Parliament House tomorrow at 11 a.m. for MPs and NGOs to take a common stand against unfair toll rate increases. I would urge MCA, Gerakan, MIC and UMNO MPs to attend the meeting and participate to show to the people that on an issue affecting the people’s welfare, MPs from all political parties, whether government or opposition, can work together as a team.
I have extended an invitation to all UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC MPs to the meeting in Parliament tomorrow through email or fax to their respective party secretaries-general. I have also invited Samy Vellu or his Deputy Works Minister to the meeting, both to give a briefing as well as to hear the views expressed.
Apart from political parties with MPs, other political parties and NGOs have also been invited, and among those who would attend would be Parti Rakyat President, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, Socialist Party of Malaysia Protem Chairman, Dr. Mohamad Nasir, ADIL President, Datin Seri Dr. Azizah Ismail, Tenaganita director, Irene Fernandez and other NGO representatives.