Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Penang on Thursday, 20th November 2008:

SPAD unlikely to improve public transport in its current format 

Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) (Public Land Transport Commission) is unlikely to improve public transport if there is no major rethinking on the part of the government.

I have previously applauded the federal government’s decision to form a public transport commission as it is long overdue; I am disappointed by the parliamentary reply of Deputy Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk S. K. Davansamy yesterday.

First, it was only after my repeated requests that the Deputy Minister provided the Parliament a date – March 2009 – when the bill for the formation of the Commission would be presented to Parliament.

But he then qualified it by saying that although the suggestion for SPAD to be set up was put forth in the Ninth Malaysia Plan, it involved a wide range of stakeholders and hence SPAD’s implementation would take time.

In other words, with the government’s current mindset, it will probably take years to finally see the Commission gets down to business.

Second, the reply to my question why the Commission was not placed under the Ministry of Transport, the government is of the view that there are too many agencies involved in the public transport sector.

The crux of the problem is that there are too many cooks that are spoiling the soup, making Malaysia’s public transport ridership decline from 30 percent 20 years ago to a mere 16 percent now.

The formation of the Commission was meant to streamline the sector so that decisions are all made with the sole objective of turning public transport services in Malaysia into a world class one with an eventual target of at least 60 percent ridership within a reasonable time frame.

In relation to that, the government should not restrict the mandate of the commission to “land transport” but should look at all available options of public transport in the hope that the entire system is holistic and not piecemeal.

* Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary & MP for Bukit Bendera