Samy Vellu cannot disclaim responsibility for the burdensome NSE toll rates as he is not a postman for the Cabinet but the Minister in charge of highways as well as the person who negotiated and signed the lop-sided NSE concession in 1988 which provided a “cash cow” to PLUS at the expense of the motorists
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Thursday): It is most regrettable that the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu did not tell the waiting Malaysian press and public the outcome of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting after declaring in Parliament on Tuesday that he would be bringing to the Cabinet’s attention the unanimous objection of MPs across-the-board to the the 10% rise in the toll charges on the North-South Expressway (NSE) which is to come into effect from 1.1.2005.
This is most irresponsible, as Samy Vellu cannot disclaim responsibility for the burdensome and oppressive NSE toll rates as he is not a postman for the Cabinet but the Minister in charge of highways as well as the person who negotiated and signed the lop-sided NSE concession in 1988 which provided a “cash cow” to PLUS Expressway at the expense of the motorists.
Samy Vellu’s irresponsibility and failure to be frank and truthful about yesterday’s Cabinet meeting on the 10% NSE toll hike issue has given rise to different and even conflicting media reports, such as:
If Malaysia genuinely practises parliamentary democracy based on the fundamental principle of the supremacy of Parliament, then the Cabinet and the Executive should yield to the unanimous view of Members of Parliament from the Barisan Nasional and the Opposition opposing the 10% NSE toll hike next year.
The NSE should not be a “cash cow” for PLUS at the expense of the motorists, as PLUS is forecast to make more than RM700 million in profit this year. In the first six months of the year, PLUS Expressway posted a pre-tax profit of RM358.4 million, up by 2.3 per cent from RM350.27 million registered in the same period in 2003.
Traffic volume for the first six months of 2004 grew 4.7 per cent as compared to 4.4 per cent for the first six months of 2003 despite the closure of the Bukit Lanjang stretch in the first five months of 2004 due to the rockfall incident in November. The company is expecting a better second half-year with the re-opening of Bukit Lanjan stretch as well as from the anticipated higher traffic for the second half of the year, as borne out by past records.
There are two weeks left before the 10% NSE toll hike is to come into force on January 1, 2005. The 10% NSE toll hike should be cancelled unless Samy Vellu or the NSE concessionaire PLUS can convince MPs across-the-board that the increase is fair, reasonable and acceptable.
Samy Vellu and PLUS must convince not only Cabinet Ministers but all MPs, both Barisan Nasional and Opposition, on the legitimacy of the 10% NSE toll hike. They should hold an urgent briefing next week for all concerned MPs about the 10% toll hike proposal to lay out the socio-economic and financial justifications for the latest toll increase, failing which, the 10% NSE toll hike from 1.1.2005 should be cancelled.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman