Samy Vellu is acting as Minister for PLUS instead of Minister for 25 million Malaysians as his first duty is to protect the interests of the public and stop PLUS from imposing unilateral, arbitrary and illegal fines on NSE motorists for “overstaying” instead of leaping to its defence
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Saturday): The Malaysian Highways Authority Director-General Datuk Dr. George George is to be applauded for his forthright attitude and public-spiritedness when he said that highway concessionaires cannot take arbitrary action and impose fines on motorists because there are legal issues involved – when commenting on the unilateral, arbitrary and illegal PLUS fines on motorists for “overstaying” in the North-South Expressway (NSE) since Wednesday, completely without notice. (Star)
This is in sharp contrast to the defensive and apologetic stance of the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who has gone to the defence of PLUS’ unilateral, arbitrary and illegal “fines” on motorists, justifying it as a legitimate operation against toll cheating by NSE users particularly lorry drivers who swap tickets before exit points to pay less toll than the scheduled fare. Samy Vellu even asked: “Do you want the authorities to continue to adopt a ‘one eye open, one eye closed’ attitude to condone these illegal activities and to suffer losses?” (Sin Chew)
Samy Vellu is acting as Minister for PLUS instead of Minister for 25 million Malaysians as his first duty is to protect the interests of the public and stop PLUS from imposing unilateral, arbitrary and illegal fines on NSE motorists for “overstaying” instead of leaping to its defence.
The Malaysian public are reasonable people and they can accept and even support PLUS’ desire to check and eradicate toll cheating by motorists, but such counter-measures must be legal, reasonable, accountable, transparent, commensurate with the problem and do not create unnecessary and unacceptable inconvenience for the larger innocent motoring public. These conditions are not met by the “fines” imposed on NSE motorists for “overstaying”, as it is unilateral, arbitrary, illegal, excessive and made totally without notice.
There is a legal maxim which said that “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, but in the case of PLUS, they are prepared to make nine, 99, 999 or even 9,999 innocent motorists suffer inconveniences for the one person who cheat on toll.
Even more objectionable, the PLUS “overstaying fine” flout the basic notion in any civilized society that a person is innocent until proven guilty, by regarding all who had “overstayed” as guilty of having cheated PLUS of toll, unless and until they have proven their innocence!
PLUS should heed the comments of the Malaysian Highway Authority Chairman as well as the adverse reactions from the overwhelming majority of NSE users and the general public, and immediately withdraw the arbitrary and illegal NSE “overstaying fine”. It should consult with the civil society to come out with a counter-measure to eradicate toll cheating which is legal, reasonable and acceptable to NSE users and public opinion.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman