I urge Transport minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong to engage in a calm, professional and rational discussion about public transport. His response to my statement borders on hysterical. Let us be calm, be cool.
Dr. Wee called me a “hypocrite” over my criticism of traffic congestion. The MCA president also claimed that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was “anti-public transport”. In his allegation, he was quoted as saying that, “As the ‘anti-public transport’ government, PH had canceled many public transport projects that may have solved traffic congestion. But now that it has become the opposition, isn’t it hypocritical for Liew to ask how to solve traffic congestion, to say the least?”
Dr Wee further claimed that the government had already allocated RM115 million as subsidies for My50 unlimited travel passes on public transport. He asked rhetorically, “I wonder how much more the government should increase its subsidies?”
Perhaps Dr Wee failed to understand the message by DAP Secretary-General and former Transport Minister Sdr Anthony Loke on 27 May Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to form an inter-ministry committee to deal with the increasingly troubling traffic congestion throughout the country.
Instead, on 30 May, Dr Wee in an interview with China Press said that the congestion was caused by Malaysia having too many registered vehicles, stating that it wasn’t his fault and implying that he or his ministry couldn’t do much.
In the same interview, he also said fares for public transport will have to be increased due to rising costs. I’m not sure whether he knows that his suggestion would deter people from using public transport.
Instead of addressing the problem to ease the pain of the people, Dr Wee chose to resort to hysterical tirade.
Dr Wee should have known that the PH government made several significant contributions to our public transport:
1. At one of the earliest cabinet meetings of the new government on 30 May 2018, a major decision was reached: public transport would come under the purview of the Transport Ministry. It may surprise many people but from the 1970s onwards, public transport was either placed under the purview of the UMNO-controlled Entrepreneur Development Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Department. Taxi and bus licenses were dished out to UMNO cronies. Successive Ministers of Transport from MCA had no role in shaping public transport policy at all. The PH government did the right thing to take politics and cronyism out of public transport licensing by placing public transport under the Transport Ministry.
2. One of the first programmes implemented by Minister Anthony Loke was to introduce the very popular My50 and My100 unlimited travel passes to keep fares low and to encourage more public transport usage. As proof of its popularity, the administration of Ismail Sabri and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continued the programme.
3. It was Anthony Loke who was instrumental in negotiating the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project and keeping the costs down.
Whereas, under Minister Dr Wee,
1. Rapid KL is only deploying 400 buses per day instead of the 1,000 buses that are operable.
2. Due to Wee’s intervention, the Klang Valley Double Tracking 2 (KVDT2) project stalled.
The Interim Stage Bus Support Fund (ISBSF) was reduced.
3. Rapid Kamunting and Rapid Manjung bus services were stopped.
4. Cityliner buses under Konsortium Transnasional Bhd stopped operating in places like Seremban and Kelantan.
These are undeniable facts. Traffic congestion is real and felt by all Malaysians. The only way out to reduce congestion is to get more Malaysians to switch to public transport. But public transport, especially buses, have to be subsidised and be provided with sufficient numbers, punctuality and comfort.
There is no need for Dr Wee to be defensive or hysterical. He should be calm, professional and rational. It is not about him. The massive traffic congestion is the problem for all Malaysians. So let’s have a rational discussion. My advice to Wee: be a true leader, take charge and deal with the problems!