Abdullah should give top priority to tsunami catastrophe and the burdensome 10% NSE toll hike in the last Cabinet meeting of the year tomorrow


Media Statement (2)
when visiting the tsunami devastation sites and victims in Penang

by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday): I applaud the decision of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in cutting short his holiday and return home to visit victims of the tsunami disaster. 

It will be most improper, and will definitely be held against him particularly by his critics and enemies in his own political party in future, if he had gone ahead with his holiday plans in Spain when the country is reeling under the worst natural disaster in the nationís history. 

Officially, the death toll as at 1 a.m. today is  59 with 29 people reported missing, although unofficial figures are very much higher, with one local newspaper reporting 65 deaths while even higher figures are being mentioned by some normally reliable circles. 

Globally, the total death score is edging towards 25,000, but this is likely to be doubled soon.  The death count for the whole of Indonesia is currently given at 4,912, but the Indonesian Vice President Yusuf Kalla has returned from Banda Aceh with the grim forecast that the death toll in  that provincial capital alone could hit 10,000!  There are even predictions that the death toll in Indonesia alone could be as high as 25,000! 

Thailandís death  toll is reported to be 839, but Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had told reporters in Bangkok that he feared 2,000 people or more may have died. 

With Abdullah back in the country and in control, he should give top priority to the  tsunami catastrophe and the burdensome 10% (North-South Expressway) NSE toll hike in the last Cabinet meeting of the year tomorrow. 

When the Cabinet approved the 10% NSE toll hike for the new year a fortnight ago on 15th December, the Cabinet Ministers had not acted with full responsibility, but Abdullah was not present as he was on a foreign visit to the Middle East and India. 

For this reason, Abdullah should ask Cabinet tomorrow to review and defer the 10% NSE toll hike for two months to allow full public study of its long-term implications for the following reasons: 

  • The strong opposition by MPs from both sides of the political divide to the 10% NSE toll hike, accepting that the Cabinet must respect the wishes of Parliament when it reflect the unanimous view of parliamentarians regardless of political party;
  • Failure of the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to fairly and  fully convey  to the Cabinet the strong reasons for the  unanimous opposition of MPs; and
  • Cabinet misled and frightened by Samy Vellu with the  baseless ground  that the government would have to compensate PLUS RM38 billion over the next 33 years for not approving the 10% NSE toll hike.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman