Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 19th November 2008:

Peoples' power reigns in the decision to declassify highway concessions

I applaud the decision by the government to declassify the highway concession contracts. This move could be the first and important step towards good governance, accountability and transparency in the country.

This decision is a clear victory for the people and would not have come about without the constant pressure by non-governmental organizations, political parties and trade unions. In 2007, a series of demonstrations were organized in IOI mall, Sunway Pyramid and Gombak toll to protest against toll hikes and make public the concession agreements.

Although the protesters were arrested and the government threatened to use the Official Secrets Acts against opposition leaders, a reversal of the policy aptly indicates that the peoples' power would prevail.

The demand, by Malaysians, for greater democratic rights and transparency following the unprecedented electoral gains made by the opposition at the March general election is another compelling reason for this decision.

The government has long been criticized for cloaking these agreements in a veil of secrecy.

I, however, would like to point out that there should be no exception made for the KL-Putrajaya Expressway (KLPE) and urge the government to come clean with the contract records.

All efforts must be made to compel highway operator Maju Expressway Berhad (which manages KLPE) to comply with the cabinet directive, in the event the company refuses to do so.

I also urge the Selangor state government to declassify all privatization contracts, especially the recent controversial new Klang bus station project.

I am yet to receive a response despite having publicly urged the Selangor state government to disclose all information relating to the new Klang Bus Station contract at a dialogue with Klang Citizens.

All Pakatan Rakyat state governments should follow the federal government's unprecedented decision and also implement the concept of Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT), in line with our electoral promise.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang