DAP calls for a two-month deferment of the 10% NSE toll hike for MPs, trade unions, consumer organizations, civil society and motorists to study the unfair and lopsided NSE concession turning it into “cash cow” for PLUS at the expense of two generations of Malaysians – with DAP offering free legal and consultancy services to Works Ministry and Cabinet
Media Conference Statement
- during the protest against 10% North-South Expressway toll hike from 1st January held at the Jelapang Toll Interchange, Perak
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Friday): Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, is back to his blustering self yesterday, declaring that the proposed 10 per cent toll hike for the North-South Expressway (NSE) will take effect from Jan 1 as planned.
He even tried to intimidate MPs and those who spoke up against the NSE toll hike, accusing them of seeking cheap publicity, as well as trying to silence and overawe them with “frightening” statistics, claiming that if the toll rates are not increased, the government would have to pay RM154 million in compensation a year to the expressway's concessionaire, PLUS.
Samy Vellu said: "If we stop the North-South Expressway toll hike it would be a big burden for the government. We would have to pay RM38 billion in compensation to PLUS over the next 33 years. This money could be utilised for other projects." (Bernama)
Many questions come to mind: Firstly, who asked Samy Vellu to sign, and why did he agree, to so unfair, one-sided and oppressive an expressway concession which is so lopsided against the interests of motorists and the public in requiring taxpayers through the government to compensate PLUS RM154 million a year and RM38 billion over the next 33 years if the 10% toll hike is not increased on 1.1.2005?
The second question is where Samy Vellu had learnt his maths – as compensation of RM154 million a year does not add up to a grand total of RM38 billion for the next 33 years – as the total is RM5 billion and not RM38 billion!
Thirdly, why must compensation be paid to PLUS for the next 33 years till 2038, when the 30-year NSE concession which started in May 1988 is to end in 2030 after a 12-yeasr extension in 1999? With another 25 years to run for the concession, at the compensation rate of RM154 million a year, the total compensation liable till the end of the concession is RM3.85 billion – one tenth of Samy Vellu’s hyperbolic claim of RM38 billion! Or is there a secret compact that there would be another extension of the NSE concession, despite the earlier extension of the original 30-year NSE concession to 42 years?
I fully agree with Samy Vellu that compensating PLUS RM38 billion in lieu of the 10% toll hike is an unacceptable burden to the government and people, as the money could be utilized for other projects.
This makes Samy Vellu’s responsibility as the Minister who negotiated and signed the NSE concession and its variations all the more greater, and he owes the country a full and satisfactory explanation why he had mortgaged the rights and interests of two generations of Malaysians to one concessionaire, PLUS, with such one-sided, unfair and oppressive terms?
In fact, thanks to the government, PLUS is already rolling in billions of ringgit of compensation money for one reason or another. As reported by the New Straits Times, Samy Vellu told Parliament on 28th September 2004 that the government had paid out RM1.04 billion in compensation to highway concessionaires as part of efforts to reduce toll-rate increases over the five-year period from 1999-2004. Furthermore, the government had during the same five-year period provided RM10.8 billion in compensation to highway concessionaires to restructure their toll charges, with North-South Expressway the biggest beneficiary in getting the lion’s share to the tune of RM7.7 billion!
Samy Vellu’s return to his blustering self yesterday was the very contrast to his meek and humble demeanour in Parliament on Tuesday, when in the face of united opposition by MPs, both Barisan Nasional and the Opposition, to the 10 per cent NSE toll hike from January 1 next year, the Works Minister claimed that the decision to raise the toll rates was made by the Government and not by him, and he promised to bring to the attention of the Cabinet the unanimous opposition of MPs across-the-board to the toll hike.
Samy Vellu was not that innocent, as he is not just a Cabinet postman as he tried to pretend, but the Minister in charge of highways and even more pertinent, the very person who negotiated and signed the NSE concession and its variations which gave PLUS the “cash cow” at the expense of more than two generations of Malaysians.
DAP calls for a two-month deferment of the NSE toll hike for MPs, consumer organizations, trade unions, civil society and motorists to be convinced that the 10% NSE toll hike and 40-year concession is not a lopsided “cash cow” for PLUS at the expense of motorists for more than two generations, and that there is no way to cancel the 10% toll hike and vary the concession without attracting the penalty of RM38 billion compensation for the next 33 years! I believe there must be a way out to mitigate the oppressive terms of the NSE concession to protect the rights and interests of two generations of Malaysians.
DAP offers free legal and consultancy services to the Works Ministry and Cabinet to work out a strategy for this purpose, i.e. minimize the lopsidedness of the NSE concession in excessive favour of PLUS without having to stump out the Shylockian compensation of RM38 billion for the next 33 years or even RM154 million a year.
PLUS should be mindful of its national and social obligations and responsibilities and agree to waive the right to claim any compensation during the two-month deferment of the toll hike, or it will be a demonstration of anti-social and anti-national characteristics which should never be found in a company which had been awarded the prized “cash cow” of privatization at the expense of more than two generations of Malaysians.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman