Government should not sign the third agreement to extend PLUS North-South Expressway concession by another eight years and seven months without consultation and consent of Parliament

Media Conference Statement
at the Kampong Tawas Market (Ipoh Barat)  on the DAP�s year-long  �Restore Local Government Elections� campaign
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Friday): Three months ago, I had specifically asked the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu  whether without the knowledge of the people and MPs,  the government had secretly agreed to extend the North-South Expressway (NSE) concession by another eight years, making it a 50-year �cash cow� concession for PLUS till 2038?  

This was because in responding to nation-wide protests against another round of North-South Expressway (NSE) toll hike, Samy Vellu had inadvertently said last December that the government would have to pay RM38 billion in compensation  to PLUS over the next 33 years if the 10% NSE toll hike on 1.1.2005 was not honoured � i.e. that the concession would go on until  2038, which was news to Malaysians!


As I pointed out at the time, Samy Vellu�s claim of RM38 billion compensation to PLUS over the next 33 years was ridiculous when NSE concession was for 42 years from 1988,  ending in 2030 � or in another 25 years.  In 1999, the 30-year NSE concession (1988-2018) was extended by 12 years till 2030, following  a renegotiation of the concession providing for a new toll structure, with increments every three to five years instead of annually in the original contract.


I said I did not believe Samy Vellu was senile to make such a colossal mistake about the period of the NSE concession, which could only mean that without public  or parliamentary knowledge, the Works Ministry had secretly awarded another eight-year extension of the NSE concession, giving it a 50-year tenure!


My question and suspicion last December have now been  proved right with the announcement by Samy Vellu yesterday that  the government has agreed to extend the NSE concession period by eight years and seven months under a package to upgrade the expressway, adding two additional lanes in the Seremban-Ayer Keroh and Rawang-Tanjung Malim stretches and relocating the Jelapang toll booth in Ipoh,


Samy Vellu said that the RM1.37 billion upgrading  would be financed by a Federal Government loan of RM962 million, the taking over of the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway by Plus which was estimated at RM50.27 million and the extension of the concession which cost RM361.89 million.  PLUS would also get a commercial loan of RM900 million to carry out the additional work.

When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister 17 months ago, he had promised a more accountable, transparent and consultative form of governance.  His government also announced a fundamental review of privatization contracts to address the problem of privatization deals which are so lop-sided against the long-term interests of consumers and the ordinary rakyat.


The North-South Expressway is one such mega-privatisation which had been the subject of repeated public demands for a review to render it more fair to the motorists.


The Abdullah administration�s pledge of a more accountable, transparent and consultative form of governance would suffer a grave credibility blow when the government has not only failed to get the one-sided NSE concession reviewed and readjusted, but allow another unfair extension of the NSE concession for another eights years without any public input, discussion or consultation.


DAP calls on the Government not to  sign the third agreement to extend the PLUS North-South Expressway concession by another eight years and seven months without consultation and consent of Parliament.


Malaysians are entitled to know whether the eight-year extension of the NSE concession would now end up with motorists having to pay a toll of RM 300 travelling 800 km from Johore Bahru to  Bukit Kayu Hitam near the conclusion of the 50-year NSE concession.


MPs, whether  Barisan Nasional or Opposition, should take a common stand to demand that the new extension of the NSE concession should first be referred to Parliament or a Parliamentary Select Committee before it is signed, as Malaysians are entitled to know why the  government has to  compensate PLUS RM38 billion for the next 33 years as one condition of the new extension as far as the toll structure is concerned.


Samy Vellu and the government are over-solicitous to defend the interests of PLUS.  He announced recently that the government will amend the law to allow PLUS to fine motorists for �overstaying� on the Expressway and suspected of cheating toll payment.


Last Friday, an accident at NSE km 210 near Pedas at about 10 pm. caused a five-hour traffic jam and standstill between the Seremban-Ayer Keroh stretch, which would not have happened if PLUS had taken its NSE responsibilities seriously to clear any traffic obstruction in the shortest possible time. 


Is Samy Vellu prepared to amend the law to require  PLUS to compensate motorists who  are held up on the expressway for an excessively long period because of massive traffic jams in violation of its pledge to provide a �smooth, safe and fast journey�?



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman