PLUS’ “overstaying fine” to deal with toll cheats “a cure  worse than  disease” highlighting the dangers of unfair and unaccountable privatization – which must be checked with the immediate publication of North-South Expressway concession for public scrutiny


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu’s directive to PLUS Expressways Bhd to immediately stop imposing time-limit fines on motorists who take longer than usual to make their trips on the North-South Expressway (NSE) is to be welcomed although such an arbitrary and illegal penalty  should not have been allowed to be imposed  by a privatization entity  in the past four days. 

The PLUS “overstaying fine” to deal with toll cheats is “a cure worse than disease” for three reasons: 

  • It violates the fundamental principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, by regarding all who had “overstayed” in the NSE as guilty of having cheated PLUS of toll, unless and until they have proven their innocence!
  • It flouts the  legal maxim “Better ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer”, by making  nine, 99, 999 or even 9,999 innocent motorists  suffer inconveniences for the one person who cheat on toll.
  • It highlights the dangers of unfair and unaccountable privatization – which is why I said in Parliament earlier this week during the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 on water federalization and privatization that  the North-South Expressway is the “mother of all unfair privatizations – piratisation – in Malaysia”.

If Samy Vellu had not stopped PLUS from imposing its arbitrary and illegal “overstaying fine” on NSE, he would undoubtedly be the common target of attack of all Members of Parliament, both Barisan Nasional and Opposition, in the next Parliamentary meeting in March, just as he was the common target of criticism of all MPs in the October meeting of Parliament last year over the series of public works scandals involving schools, hospitals, highways and public projects. 

Samy Vellu should learn the proper lesson from the public uproar over PLUS’  arbitrary and illegal “overstaying fine” on the NSE – by securing Cabinet approval on Wednesday to make public the NSE privatization contract to subject it to public scrutiny, as there can be no reason why after 16 years since it was signed in 1988, there could be any legitimate reason to continue to keep  the NSE concession as an “official secret” protected by the Official Secrets Act. 

DAP MPs will demand at the next parliamentary meeting in March that the North-South Expressway concession and all privatization contracts should be tabled in Parliament and made public, and we will seek the support of all other MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Barisan Alternative, for this move towards greater accountability, transparency and good governance, in keeping with the promise by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to lead an efficient, accountable and trustworthy government.


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