Isnin, Disember 27, 2004

Toll hike: Don’t violate people’s trust, Pak Lah told

Nurul Nazirin

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Barisan Nasional government must not violate the people’s trust by allowing the 10 percent toll hike along the North-South highway.

This was the message from the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) president N Marimuthu today.

“The people have been supporting the government. This is not how the government should repay us,” he told a press conference at the association’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

“Where is the prime minister’s earlier promise to look after the welfare of the people?” he added.

Marimuthu was speaking at the launch of Fomca’s signature campaign against the toll hike - from 12.36 sen per kilometre to 13.60 per kilometre - which will take effect from Jan 1 next year. The association hopes to collect one million signatures.

He said the government must understand and be sensitive to the needs of the consumers. The Fomca president also questioned its priorities.

“(Does) the government ‘love’ the people or government-linked companies?” he asked.

Review contract

Marimuthu said the contract with the highway’s concessionaire Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (Plus) be reviewed and its terms and conditions be made public.

He said all contracts inked with other privatised companies should also be looked into and revised to avoid any lopsided agreements that burden consumers.

The Fomca president also pointed out that the government contradicted itself by encouraging Malaysians to go on holidays at local destinations and buy locally produced cars but burden them at the same time with expensive toll charges.
Despite widespread protests from opposition leaders and other quarters, Plus has remained adamant about increasing the toll rate. The company has also been given the green light by the government.

Previously, Works Minister S Samy Vellu said if the hike is not approved, the government would have to fork out a hefty compensation for Plus, according to the terms of the contract inked by both parties.

Secret agreement

On Wednesday, Plus’ top executives had declined to furnish a copy of the contract when requested by members of the Committee Against Unfair Toll Increases (Cauti).

Cauti, headed by DAP parliamentarian Teresa Kok, had also submitted a protest memorandum to the company on the hike.

United Engineers (Malaysia) Bhd (UEM), Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Employees Provident Fund and Social Securities Organisation are the five main shareholders of Plus.

The maintenance of highways, including the NSE, is done by Projek Penyelenggaraan Lebuhraya Bhd (Propel) which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UEM.

Meanwhile, Fomca secretary-general and legal advisor T Indriani said consumers have the right to know what they are paying for.

“Why such an excuse that the government should pay compensation to the concessionaire...why is it that we are going into that kind of agreement in the first place?” she asked.

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