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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Najib still mum on high toll rates

The Causeway toll rates goes up effective August 1 and still not a word from Najib on why he has gone back on his promise of a toll-free EDL for the rakyat.
plus-tollBy Jimmy Puah
With less than 12 hours to go (at the time of writing) before the implementation of the new toll rates at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex in Johor Bahru, one cannot help but wonder about the eerie silence from certain quarters.
From the day of the announcement until today, no MCA, MIC or Gerakan leader has commented about the issue, leaving us to wonder if they agree or disagree with the new toll rates.
As major component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional government, it is only right that the Johor Bahru residents want to know their leaders’ stand on this matter.
If they continue to stay mute, then I can only conclude that they tacitly agree to this toll hike.
Surprisingly, our Johor Bahru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad made an objection, even if it was merely symbolic. I expected more from the veteran lawmaker who was vocal during the first public uproar over the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) deal back in 2012.
Perhaps Shahrir too feels betrayed by the turn of events, having publicly claimed political credit for keeping the faith with Najib and his promise that the EDL remain toll-free.
Another key figure subscribing to the principle of ‘silence is golden’ is our Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
It is extraordinary that until today, the man has not issued a single statement on the matter, despite giving a written assurance to a Pakatan Rakyat lawmaker way back in September 2012 that the EDL will be kept toll-free after the Federal government takeover.
Surely a 570% increase in toll rates, which could potentially jeopardise the local economy of Johor Bahru and cause a strain on the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Singapore, merits the Prime Minister’s attention.
Even if Najib is disinterested in this issue, why is it that until today, even our Works Minister has made no comment on the exact nature and reasoning for the sudden 570% increase in toll charges?
In fact, the only party to issue a statement was the Malaysia Highway Authority (MHA) and even that was via media statements and not a press conference where they would have had to answer questions from the media.
It is the PKR Johor’s view that PLUS will be collecting the higher toll charges for the EDL concession holder.
It is plain to see that this has become a face-saving exercise for Najib as he promised in 2012 that the Federal government would takeover the EDL and keep it toll-free for the rakyat.
If the EDL concession holder Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) were to step up and collect toll based on the EDL concession agreement, Najib’s integrity as a leader would be shattered.
Hence, the need to masquerade the collection by appointing PLUS at the payment collection counter when at all times the money is really going to  MRCB.
That is also why until today, the government is reluctant to justify the reasoning for the sudden increase of 570% because there is none unless the EDL deal is put into the equation.
My point here is to reinforce MHA’s statement that part of the money collected would be channelled towards the maintenance of the CIQ buildings and the EDL.
However if RM2.90 had been fine for the past years for maintenance works, why the sudden need to jump five-fold for doing essentially the same job?
If the government is unable to keep their promise then at least have the decency to face the rakyat and be truthful about it.
Najib has shown poor leadership by not only renegading on his own words but displaying cowardice by not having the courage and decency to tell the rakyat he has failed us.
Jimmy Puah Wee Tse is the PKR Johor Legal Bureau Chief cum State Assemblyman for Bukit Batu.

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