Samy Vellu should ask the Cabinet tomorrow to consider re-opening bidding for PORR as its award was contrary to international best practices of good urban governance and public integrity

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday)Last Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr. Hilmi Yahaya told the Penang State Assembly that the Penang State Government had “sacrificed” 31 ha of prime state land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive to reduce the originally-proposed PORR toll per toll station from RM1.70 to RM1, but in  the same breath, he  claimed that the PORR would be constructed “with no direct public cost”.  

On Sunday, however, the Minister for Works, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu came to Penang and said that the toll rate for PORR is still under discussion and has yet to be decided, giving the assurance that the toll rate to be charged would be most reasonable, taking into account the burden to be borne by users and the cost that the government had to bear in constructing the road. Is the toll for PORR going to be very well below RM1 per toll station? 

In any event, what is this “cost” to be borne by the government  that Samy Vellu was talking about when Hilmi had told the Penang State Assembly that there is “no direct public cost”?  

According to Samy Vellu, this “public cost”  is “RM150 million  federal allocation for the compensation scheme, RM200 million  in prime state land and the right to reclaim 200 ha for a mixed development project to the concessionaire to reduce the cost to RM740 milion” – claiming that “Reducing the cost of projects means a reduction in toll rates”.  

As there is such a clear conflict between Federal and State Governments about whether there is “public cost” in PORR, the Federal and State government leaders should come clean about PORR and stop playing a “cat-and-mouse” game with the  people of Penang in making conflicting and confusing statements - all stemming from the total lack of transparency of PORR.  

Samy Vellu has not been able to  give any cogent or convincing reason when he rejected  calls for the re-bidding of PORR except remarking that  “those fellows will only ask for more money”.  

The people of Penang must presume that by “those fellows”, he could only refer to  Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd, which has been issued with a Letter of Intent for the PORR  concession as it was  the sole applicant several years ago – which is not a very complimentary remark about the sense of corporate responsibility of a RM50,000 company without any track record in highway construction  which had been awarded a billion-ringgit mega privatization project against the international best practices of good urban governance and public integrity.  

Be  that as it may,  Samy Vellu cannot be right   that if there is a re-bidding for PORR privatization, Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd would be able to “ask for more money”, for it would not be a replay of the original bid five years ago when nobody  knew that the PORR concessionaire would be given the unprecedented bounties of 30-year toll concession, 31 ha of prime State land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive – estimated to worth some RM5 billion!  

Samy Vellu had attended many international conferences as Works Minister in various parts of the world as well as officiating the opening of even more conferences on transporation and privatization in Malaysia.   

Let Samy Vellu explain why he had allowed the   PORR project to  violate the  international best practices of good urban governance and public integrity where government support for any privatization project should be defined upfront as a maximum so that the private sector can prepare realistic bids and to avoid hanky-panky and improper influences  and malpractices in the bids.  

Samy Vellu should  also explain why the Federal Government is discriminating against Penang in not ensuring that the PORR is toll-free, when it could ensure that the RM500 million Seremban Middle Ring Road is toll-free as well as allocate RM1 billion to Kedah for a toll-free Sungei Petani Outer Ring Road as well as other road projects in the state – when Penang is equally if not more deserving of such Federal government support considering Penang’s contribution to the Federal treasury coffers.  

Samy Vellu should raise the PORR issue in Cabinet tomorrow to review its bidding as it is highly flawed in being against international best practices of good urban governance and public integrity, consider the just and proper option of a re-bidding where the maximum government support for PORR such as RM150 million federal government allocation and the RM5 billion worth of 30-year toll collection, 31 ha of prime state land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive are  declared upfront and known to all interested bidders.  

Furthermore, the Cabinet should commission a full transportation masterplan  to provide an efficient public transport system based on sustainable transport policy to end the traffic congestion nightmare on the Penang island.  

As MCA and Gerakan leaders in Penang have been claiming that PORR was a burden unfairly imposed on the Penang State Government,  Penang MCA and Penang Gerakan by the Federal Government and UMNO , they should lobby the MCA and Gerakan Ministers to take a strong stand to ask for a review of the PORR project, not only with regard to the toll question but also the re-bidding, and for a comprehensive transport masterplan to resolve the traffic congestion nightmare on the Penang Island.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman