480% Johore causeway toll hikes absurd, presumptuous and preposterous – giving Najib a bad name as a Prime Minister whose word is not his bond

The sudden imposition of the 480% Johore causeway toll hikes is absurd, presumptuous and preposterous, giving Datuk Seri Najib Razak a bad name as a Prime Minister whose word is not his bond.

ABSURD because the astronomical, unreasonable and unconscionable toll hikes clearly for the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) are being imposed on the majority of the thousands of vehicles and the 200,000 people crossing the Johor causeway daily who do not use the EDL for them to reach the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ).

Isn’t it absurd that the majority of daily vehicles and commuters of the Johor causeway who do not use EDl are being penalized in having to pay the unfair and astronomical causeway toll hikes for upkeep and maintenance of EDL?

Can the Federal or State government cite another instance in the country where vehicular traffic using one highway or access have to pay toll for another highway that they are not using?

Is the reason why there is no full and proper consultation before the Johor causeway toll hikes are implemented because those in authority realize the height of absurdity of such an imposition, and they have no confidence in facing the legitimate and righteous wrath of those who are made victims of such bureaucratic absurdity – having to pay toll hikes for the EDL when they are not using the EDL?

PRESUMPTUOUS for those in authority to believe that they can get away with the most unconscionable, unjustifiable and astronomical causeway toll hikes by implementing them in double-quick time of less than a week of announcement during Hari Raya holidays without any full and proper public feedback and consultation.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin said last weekend that the state government will hold talks with bus companies to provide express services for locals working in Singapore so that people will not have to drive across the Causeway to work and to pay for tolls.

The Johor Baru MP, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad has suggested that buses and taxis should be exempted from paying toll at the CIQ Complex to encourage more people to use public transportation to commute between Johor Baru and Singapore as well as to reduce traffic congestion at the Johor Causeway.

These and other proposals should have seriously studied and implemented if feasible, before any implementation of the unconscionable and astronomical causeway toll hikes on August 1.

In fact, up to now, the Malaysian Highways Authority which sprung the surprise announcement of the causeway toll hikes on July 26 has not been able to explain the reason for the sudden hike or the rationales for the astronomical and unconscionable hikes for the five classes of vehicles ranging from 469% hike for private cars, 453% hike for small lorries, 446% hike for heavy lorries; 486% hike for taxis and 478% hike for buses.

PREPOSTEROUS because it will give the sixth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak a bad name as a Prime Minister whose word is not his bond, especially as Najib would have broken two solemn pledges – firstly, his pledge at the 10,000-People 1Malaysia dinner in Johor Baru on March 9, 2012 that people who do not use the EDL will not be required to pay toll; and secondly, his commitment in Parliament on Sept. 24, 2012 that the EDL will remain toll-free.

In fact, Najib would have broken a third pledge implicit in his Government Transformation Programme (GTP) that he will uphold the highest standards of transparency and accountability which would not have permitted such astronomical and unconscionable causeway toll hikes without any proper public feedback and consultation.

Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee Chairman and MP for Pulai, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamad is right when he criticized the toll hikes and said he did not understand their rationale, and that it did not make sense that the toll hikes were needed to bear the cost of EDL.

Najib should take his public commitments and pledges whether in Parliament or outside seriously, and I want to remind him of his dual undertakings that people who do not use the EDL will not be required to pay toll and that the EDL will be toll-free.

For this reason, Najib cannot remain silent or passive, and must intervene to direct an immediate suspension of the astronomical and unconscionable Johor causeway toll hikes to allow for full and proper public feedback and consultation, which should also take into account his dual undertakings on the EDl that people who do not use it will not be required to pay toll and that EDL will remain toll-free, as well as considering the issues of Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) on Singaporean vehicles and a comprehensive public transport plan in Johor Bahru to resolve the problem of traffic congestion, improve local public transport and enhance the local economy.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah