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by Lim Guan Eng
(Taiping, Friday): Would Gerakan, PPP or MCA show that they are fighting for the people’s interests and not for UMNO by daring to oppose toll hikes and sexist BN MPs by urging voters to reject Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN – Kinabatangan) and Datuk Mohd Said Yusof (BN – Jasin) in the next general elections. Both MPs are expected to be renominated as BN candidates despite making demeaning and derogatory remarks in Parliament on 9 May 2007 against Fong and all women that made fun of what is essentially a natural biological function of females.
However Malaysians are not mollified and still angry despite the apology made by both men which is seen as fake, insincere and meaningless for 4 reasons. One, both men did not feel remorse or repent for what they had done wrong by refusing to apologise to Fong or offer to undergo counseling to stop their dismal record as a serial offender of derogatory remarks against women in Parliament.
Two the insincerity of both men is highlighted by their offering to apologise to women on the morning of 16 May 2007 but subsequently withdrawing their apology in the afternoon.
Three, BN leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Aziz and UMNO MPs for Petrajaya, Tangga Batu, Johor Baru defended both MPs, by looking at it from a humorous perspective and promoting their right to utter such offensive language as freedom of speech.
Four, both men only apologized to women but not to Fong as a form of political damage control by BN to soothe public outrage at the highly offensive remarks and also seen as a form of sexual harassment towards Fong in her performance of her duties as a parliamentarian.
A public forum on 17 May 2007 in YMCA Hall in Brickfields demanded severe penalties be meted out against both BN MPs in the form of suspension for a period of 12 months as a Member of Parliament, 12 months community service in a women NGO, 12 months MP’s allowance be donated to women NGO groups and that they be stripped of their Datukships.
The public wants Parliament to be serious forum for discussion where issues that affect Malaysians and the country’s future in a reasoned and rational manner instead of being perverted to spew demeaning insults based on one’s race, gender or religion. Such boorish behaviour is unacceptable and a disgrace to the dignity of Parliament.
To preserve the status of Parliament as the supreme institution of the land, there is no place of MPs who show no respect for women’s dignity with such unacceptable behaviour that is contrary to social, cultural and religious norms of Malaysian society. The refusal of BN to sack the two sexist BN MPs or MCA, MIC and Gerakan unwillingness to say whether they support the two UMNO MPs in the next general elections only shows that they are fighting not for the people’s interests but for UMNO’s interests.
BN should not be defending the interests of one company, PLUS Expressway Bhd (PLUS) to increase toll hike against the interests of 26 million ordinary Malaysians
DAP regrets that Works Minister Datuk Samy Vellu continues to defend PLUS by justifying PLUS’ right to increase the toll hike by 10% for the North-South Highway next year. Samy has again admitted that the government and him were wrong in signing the original toll agreements which allowed compensation to be paid to the highway concessionaires if there was a shortfall between the projected and actual traffic volume.
At present the contracts allowed huge benefits to PLUS as follows:-.
1. PLUS Expressway Bhd posted a net profit of RM1.1 billion for the year ended Dec 31, 2006 (FY06) up 4% from the RM1.06 billion a year ago on higher toll collections. The strong dividend growth of 39 per cent as against 9 per cent for 2005 far exceeded the target Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for a minimum dividend growth of 12 per cent for 2006
2. PLUS spent only RM 6 billion to complete the North-South Highway as almost half of was built by the government at a cost of RM 3 billion. In other words PLUS got half of the highway for free.
3. PLUS enjoyed a 5-year tax exemption on profits which expired in December 2006 amounting to RM 5.4 billion tax-exempt income where it made not contribution at all to the nation’s funds and enjoyed its profits free of tax;
4. PLUS has already collected RM 15.9 billion since it operated the North-South Highway in 1988, recording a profit of RM 3.7 billion against the construction cost of RM 5.94 billion and RM 6.27 billion in maintenance cost. This does not include the billions of ringgit in compensation paid by the government to PLUS and far exceeding its total construction and maintenance cost of RM 12.21 billion(see below).
5. Loan guarantees given by the federal government allowing PLUS to enjoy low favourable interest rates.
Works Minister Datuk S. Samy Vellu announced in September 2006 that the government has paid RM 38.5 billion in compensation to all the toll highway companies. This RM 38.5 billion, which does not include the toll collected from the public, exceeds the construction cost of the highways. Naturally many poses the important question why the government can not build the highways on its own when it is cheaper to do so.
With such benefits and support from Malaysians allowing PLUS to enjoy billion ringgit profits yearly, PLUS should contribute back to the national interest by waiving the 10% toll increase. If PLUS refuses, then the government should reject the proposed increase bearing in mind that PLUS can expect to enjoy tens of billions of ringgit in future profits until the concession period ends in 2038.
The government should reject such a proposed increase and review the concession agreement based on national interest on whether PLUS or 26 million Malaysians have benefited more. National interest requires the government to put the interests of 26 million Malaysians ahead of one single company.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP