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Samy Vellu dreaming or suffering from amnesia when he claimed that he had shown me the North-South Expressway concession contract for study for nine hours – when I was in fact in Kamunting Detention Centre when the contract was signed on 18th March 1988
(Parliament, Thursday) : Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu must be dreaming or suffering from amnesia when he told reporters last month that he had shown me the North-South Expressway (NSE) concession contract for study for nine hours – when I was in fact in Kamunting Detention Centre when the contract was signed on 18th March 1988.
My opposition in 1987 to the highly improper, irregular and even illegal award of the Letter of Intent to the then United Engineers Malaysia Bhd (UEM) and success in securing an interim injunction to stop the signing of the concession contract was the primary reason for my second detention under the Internal Security Act under Operation Lalang and Karpal Singh’s ISA detention, as he was my counsel.
I had raised strong objections in Parliament in July 1987 to the award of Letter of Intent to UEM for the privatization of NSE, declaring that it “stinks to the skies, and appears to be an even greater scandal than the BMF scandal”.
I had questioned Samy Vellu why UEM was awarded the Letter of Intent when among the six pre-qualified tenderers, there were other more competitive bids than UEM for the contract.
During the heated exchange in Parliament, Samy Vellu offered to show the various tender documents at his Ministry and a delegation of DAP MPs took up on his offer. We were shown a mountainous pile of the various tender documents, with the voluminous sheets of various projections for traffic volume, toll rates, increases and collections as well as financing proposals, but we were not allowed to remove any document.
In the hour-or-so we spent at the Ministry, it was not possible to absorb all the details – but enough to be reinforced in our objections to a most improper, irregular and even illegal award of the Letter of Intent to UEM.
This was why on August 18, 1987, I filed a suit at the Penang High Court for an interim injunction to restrain the Government and the UEM from signing the NSE contract.
The following facts and chronology are interesting:
It must be noted that a total of ten judges had been involved in the decision as to whether I had the locus standi to move the court for an interim injunction against the Government and UEM to restrain the signing of the NSE contract, with six judges deciding for and four against. With six judges in my favour and four against, I still lost, and the people and country also lost - not just over the UEM NSE case but an important test case on public litigation to hold the government to public accountability for its decisions and actions.
The first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman had weighed in on the issue in his weekly column, As I See It, writing: “I consider it improper and irregular for a leading political party to make use of its power to amass wealth at the expense of other business ventures” (The Star 24/8/87), with the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad responding: “We agree…but who is going to pay the $360 million for the Umno complex?” (The Star 29/8/87).
The Star was not spared as it was one of the three newspapers closed down in the Operation Lalang crackdown. When it resumed publication, it was a very different Star, starting with the removal of Tunku as the weekly columnist.
The NSE concession contract, for which Karpal and I were detained under the ISA under Operation Lalang, has still to be made a public document although it was signed nearly 20 years ago.
All privatization contracts, the NSE as well as the five highways which had increased toll rates this year - Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE), Shah Alam Highway (KESAS), Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP), Kuala Lumpur-Karak Highway and Cheras-Kajang Highway – must be made public if the Abdullah administration believes in accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
For Malaysians who want to register their protest against another round of unfair toll hikes, they should support the demonstration organised by the Anti-Toll Coalition of political parties, NGOs and trade unions on Sunday (7th January 2007) at 4 pm in front of Sunway Pyramid, Subang Jaya.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman