Pre-conditions for a meaningful MCA-led Transport Ministry

MoT (EN)

Media statement by DAP National Political Education Director and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong on 10th June 2014 in Kuala Lumpur

The current Transport Ministry is a cannibalised entity with very little real role to play in shaping transport policies for the future. MCA should set pre-conditions before re-joining the Cabinet.

As the Transport Ministry was seemingly reserved for MCA with the appointment of an acting minister since the 2013 general election, it will be a major surprise if MCA is not given the transport portfolio in the imminent cabinet reshuffle.

There is already widespread talk that the MCA strategy is to nominate President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai for his former Health portfolio to edge out MIC’s Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam while nominating Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong, who has a PhD in transport planning, as Minister of Transport. According to a column in The Star, MCA leaders are now openly talking about a third ministerial appointment.

Very few Malaysians are concerned about whether MCA is in or out of cabinet. In the 2013 general election, when MCA threatened to boycott the cabinet if it failed to secure the number of seats that it held in 2008, no one could be bothered. Its share of parliamentary seats fell from 15 to 7 after the 13th general election.

But since the new MCA leadership is so keen to return to the cabinet in style, MCA should request the Prime Minister to make its entry to cabinet meaningful to all Malaysians.

For today, I will just focus on the Transport Ministry as it is almost already “in the bag” of MCA.
First, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) must be placed under the Transport Ministry and not the Prime Minister’s Department.

Power in the Malaysian government is highly concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister to the extent that bus routes in far flung places say in Kelantan or Penang are within the purview of the Prime Minister.

Before the Land Public Transport Commission was formed, public transport was managed by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (LPKP) and was placed under an UMNO-held portfolio as licensing of buses, taxis, trucks and other commercial vehicles are seen as goodies to cronies and UMNO supporters rather than transport solutions to ordinary Malaysians.

When the SPAD bill was presented in Parliament in 2010, I argued that it must be placed within the Transport Ministry for greater policy coordination and the elimination of agencies’ turf wars.

When Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was appointed acting Minister of Transport, I made the same point to him both privately and in the media that whether it is UMNO or whichever party that leads the Ministry, public transport must be the most central component of the Ministry’s policy tools to provide safe, convenient and efficient transport solutions for all Malaysians.

Second, before 1990, airport management was within the purview of the Transport Ministry. The Transport Ministry is now merely a “regulator” with no control over airport management. Through an extensive “corporatisation” exercise, Khazanah is the main shareholder of Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad, which doesn’t take order from the Transport Minister.

Seaports went through the same exercise. For instance, the Penang Port Commission is a small entity handled by the Ministry of Transport but the extensive privatised entity Penang Port Sdn Bhd is owned by the Ministry of Finance and managed by UMNO appointees in the past two decades. Now even the smalltime UMNO appointees are forced to give way to Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-bukhary, with the aid of former MCA presidents.

For a meaningful MCA-led Transport Ministry, a precondition should be set to reverse the tide.

Third, the new Minister of Transport must be empowered to withdraw the monopoly of Puspakom. The Genting Crash Report – thus far the most authoritative document on the ills of Malaysia’s long distance buses and coaches – strongly recommended the withdrawal of monopoly of vehicle inspection given to Puspakom, a subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd. The company was given its second 15-year concession in 2009 but in light of the Genting Crash Report, the new Transport Minister must be given powers to act to protect the interests of all Malaysians against cronies.

Without such powers, the Transport ministerial portfolio is not a meaningful one.

Liew Chin Tong

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