(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Today is a black day for accountability, transparency and justice for both the motorists and the general public, as toll rate increases for four expressways, including the North-South Expressway, start today.
The Cabinet has totally ignored the demands of the people as demonstrated in the five Sunday nation-wide toll plazas protests to demand a freeze of all toll rate increases until there is a full review of the entire highway privatisation programme.
What is most shocking is that the highway privatisation contracts are so unfair and one-sided that despite the new toll rate increases from today, the Government has to pay the highway concessionaires RM200 million compensation for this year for not approving the full toll rate increases demanded by the toll-road companies.
PLUS, the concessionaire for North-South Expressway, for instance, will be compensated RM87 million for this year despite its toll rate increases today. PLUS claims that it has been operating the North-South Expressway concession at a huge loss in the past ten years and has used this as the main reason to justify its hikes in toll rate increases or for compensations from the public coffers running into tens of millions of ringgit.
Yet, we see PLUS in the past two weeks splashing the toll collection and government compensation in unproductive expenditures like self-serving advertisements in the local press. There had been an advertisement blitzkrieg in the past two weeks, and another major advertisement offensive today where it took out two-page-spread advertisements in all major language newspapers, with the wording "Everybody and anybody always has something to say. If we were to stop and listen, we’ll never get the day’s work done". It carried drawings of eight characters, with demonstration placards, expressing various statements or thoughts.
I understand that for the advertisement offensive in the various language newspapers today, PLUS would have spent about RM250,000, and only PLUS will know how many millions of ringgit it spends a year on such unproductive advertisements.
What makes the advertisement most offensive and defamatory is that one of the eight characters it depicted is clearly a caricature of me.
This character carries a placard, which is blank and clearly the wordings had been pulled out in the last minute either because of its offensive, derogatory or defamatory nature.
This character is described in in English and Bahasa Malaysia as "political hopeful" but in Chinese is described as "political opportunist" - probably a failure of last-minute amendment to all language advertisements.
Another character, described as "irresponsible citizen", depicts another character taking part in an anti-toll demonstration.
I find the PLUS advertisements new reason why the Cabinet should not have allowed an increase in toll rates or to pay out RM200 million to the toll-road companies. They are most offensive to all Malaysians who feel strongly about the unfair highway tolls and even defamatory to me as far as the Chinese advertisements are concerned.
I have asked my lawyers to look into the Chinese Plus advertisements and would announce my decision on whether I would institute defamation proceedings after I have been advised by my lawyers.