End of toll for Senai-JB Highway represents a 20-year broken government promise costing Malaysian people RM511 million
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Although the Cabinet decision yesterday to end the toll collection for the Senai-Johore Baru Highway from March 1 is greeted with joy and relief by its long-suffering motorists , what is shocking is the news that the Government – which means the Malaysian taxpayers throughout the country – would have to pay RM331.68 million in compensation to the highway concessionaire Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS) as it has been given the concession to collect toll from 1988 to 2030.
The ending of the toll collection at the Senai –JB Highway represents a 20-year broken promise by the government which costing the Malaysian people RM511 million, as the total collected toll from the highway in the past 18 years is some RM180 million apart from the RM331.68 million compensation payable to PLUS.
Malaysians will remember the exchange between the Johore Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in 1992 with Cabinet Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu when PLUS wanted to impose a two-way toll at the Senai toll plaza instead of the one-way toll for the south-bound traffic, with Muhyiddin pointing out that Samy Vellu had promised the Johore State Government in 1984 in his capacity as Works Minister that the toll collection at the plaza would cease when the North-South Expressway was completed.
When Samy Vellu denied that he had ever made such a promise, Muhyiddin said the Johore State Government had all the evidence to prove that Samy Vellu had promised the state government that toll collection on the Senai-Johore Baru highway would cease once the southern portion of the North-South Expressway was completed. The tiff between Muhyiddin and Samy Vellu ended when the Cabinet intervened to scrap the PLUS proposal to impose the two-way toll proposal.
It is now clear that the Muhyiddin’s victory in 1992 was at a great price to the Johore commuters and the Malaysian taxpayers – a total burden of RM 511 million including RM331.68 million payable to PLUS as compensation for ending the toll collection on March 1.
This is a classic case of “piratisation” rather than “privatization” where it is always “heads I win, tails you lose” whatever the outcome of the privatisation contract under the Barisan Nasional government. This is a most scandalous and outrageous privatization regime and DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to make public all highway privatisation concessionaires to subject them to the fullest accountability, transparency and public scrutiny.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman