(Kuala Lumpur, Monday): Today, I received several emails about the PLUS second blitzkrieg of advertisements which appeared in all the major language local newspapers this morning.
One email reads:
"The Star paper today carry a center page advertisement for Plus, depicting a group of cartoon character protesting for various reasons against the toll increase.
"One of the cartoon character accidently or coincindently looks very similar too you... even the pen on the shirt pocket is not leaved out!!!!
"And the advertisement blatantly says that if they were to care about the protest, they would not be able to carry out their work (which is to cut the throat of the motorist that have to use the highways).
"What are you to do anything about this!?
"Strangely, or Ironically, you have set a precedent for your ownself to sue the mass media i.e. NSTP and Berita Harian over defamatory cartoons and articles, and individuals that has purposely misinform the public, so is PLUS your new target??"
Another email says:
"A sad day for Malaysia Boleh! The hippie character in the advertisement was most misleading in portraying a section of Malaysia society. The art director of the advertisement owed Malaysians an apology."
I received the first email at 3.21 p.m., three hours after I have announced at a media conference that my lawyers are studying the PLUS advertisements in the Chinese newspapers, which is slightly different from the PLUS advertisements in the English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers.
Having giving the PLUS advertisements further consideration, I have now instructed my lawyers to also study the PLUS advertisements in the English, Bahasa Malaysia and Tamil newspapers on their defamatory nature before deciding whether defamation proceedings be instituted.
The PLUS advertisements show the arrogance of the biggest highway concessionaire in its utter contempt for the views of the motorists and the public, and this is why one of the cartoon character is described as "irresponsible citizen". PLUS demands unending increase in toll rates, failing which, it wants the government to use the taxpayers’ monies to pay it compensation, and when the motorists and the public protest, PLUS berates them as "irresponsible citizens"!
This is not the type of corporate citizens Malaysia needs.
I understand that PLUS must have spent about RM500,000 on its advertisement blitzkrieg today, and including the advertisement blitzkrieg it conducted in the past ten days in the various newspapers, PLUS would have spent millions of ringgit on the self-serving advertising campaign in the past fortnight.
All this advertising expenses would have come from the highway tolls as well as the government compensation paid to PLUS, which exceeded RM500 million between 1996-1999 - and is a clear waste of money as well as the strongest reason why last Wednesday, the Cabinet should not have allowed an increase in toll rates or to pay out RM200 million to the toll-road companies for this year.