Mustapha should explain why the NSE toll hike for 1.1.05 could not be deferred by two months when the 1999 NSE toll hike could be deferred by three months to mitigate its unfair and oppressive effect on millions of Malaysians?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Tuesday): I am very disappointed by the unnecessarily tough, dismissive and uncompromising stance of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed, who asserted that “there is no turning back” and that the 10% North-South Expressway (NSE) toll hike will be imposed from 1.1.2005.
Mustapha said yesterday that the 10% toll hike on 1st January has been gazetted and that the government could not stop highway operator PLUS Expressways Bhd from raising toll rates next year and after, as the increases were provided for in the concession agreement. (New Straits Times)
Mustapha is misleading the Malaysian public, giving the impression that the terms and conditions of the NSE concession are cast in concrete and cannot be subject to revision and renegotiation – when there had been at least three major changes to the NSE concession, the last two times affecting the toll rate structure and the 1999 and 2002 NSE toll rate increases.
Let Mustapha explain why the NSE toll hike for 1.1.05 could not be deferred by two months when the 1999 NSE toll hike could be deferred by three months to mitigate its unfair and oppressive effect on millions of Malaysians?
Is Mustapha suggesting that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not “strong” enough to defer the 10% NSE toll rate increase for 2005, when this had been done more than once by the previous Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad with regard to NSE toll rate structure?
What is most objectionable, undemocratic and contrary to the concept and commitment of an accountable and trustworthy government is that the Malaysian people, who have to pay tens of billions of ringgit in NSE tolls during the NSE concession, are kept in the dark about the full terms of the NSE concession and its various revisions.
After the 1999 revision, the people were told that the government had revised the NSE concession to stagger the annual toll increases to three years once, and that in exchange, the 30-year NSE concession has been extended by 12 years from 1988 to 2030. However, toll increases will cease after the year 2016, two years before the expiry of the original concession period on 2018, i.e. the same toll rate will be maintained for the last 14 years of the NSE concession from 2016 to 2030.
In the 2002 revision of the NSE concession, PLUS was given additional government support loans to restructure its toll charges – which now total the staggering figure of RM7.7 billion just for PLUS for North-South Expressway - but Malaysians were not told that PLUS was given the right to increase toll charges once every three years until the end of its 40-year concession in 2030, which would mean an astronomical toll charge of RM230.70 from Bukit Kayu Hitam to Johore Bahru for one way, or RM461.40 for two-way toll charges in the year 2029.
All Malaysians are expecting Abdullah to honour his general election pledge to lead a clean, just, open and accountable government which is prepared to listen to the truth from the people by showing he is sympathetic to the people’s mounting unhappiness and frustrations with the NSE toll rate structure and services – and even if he is going to uphold the 10% NSE toll hike, he would at least give the people an opportunity for a full and fair hearing by deferring the implementation of the toll hike by two months.
Although he is currently overseas on an official visit to India after his trip to Dubai, in this era of ICT where information travels at the speed of light, there is no way for Abdullah to claim ignorance about the burning issue of public opposition to the 10% NSE toll hike increase on 1.1.2005 – and I urge him to take a personal interest in this issue, which affects millions of Malaysians for two or more generations, by directing a two-month deferment of the NSE toll hike to allow for full public study of its far-reaching implications!
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman