Firm disciplinary action against Road Transport officials who abused their powers acting as bullies

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, 8th June 1981

Firm disciplinary action against Road Transport officials who abused their powers acting as bullies in causing over 300 passengers, including foreign tourists, women and children, to be stranded without sleep, food and water for over 12 hours at the RTD office in Johore Bahru on the night of 3.6.81

I rise under Standing Orders 18 to ask leave of the House to move the adjustment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the abuse of power by Road Transport Department officials who acted as bullies causing over 300 passengers, including foreign tourists, women and children to be stranded without sleep, food or water for over 12 hours at the Road Transport Department office at Jalan Larkin, Johore Bahru from the night of the birthday of Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 3.6.1981, because:

Firstly, the deplorable action of the Road Transport officials not because of ‘overzealousness” as suggested by the Minister of Transport, Datuk Lee San Choon, but a clear case of government servants who allow power to get into their head to act as bullies to inflict maximum inconvenience and hardships on the public, forgetting that government offices are in fact the servants of the people;

Secondly, such deplorable action, where government employees could with indifference and inhumanity, create a situation where over 300 people were stranded without sleep, water and food involving women and children, exposing them to darkness, could and hunger and thirst for over 12 hours at the deserted Road Transport Department at night, and subjecting them to indignity and humiliation, e.g. where there were no toilet facilities for the 300 passengers especially women who had to answer the calls of nature anywhere (in fact, in the darkness one woman fell six feet into a manhole which was not covered, seriously injuring herself) must be condemned in no uncertain terms by the government and Parliament

Thirdly, the Johore Bahru incident had greatly tarnished the image of the government, especially as the reasons for the Road Transport Department action, namely that tour buses were violating their conditions of permit by operating as express by services, did not justify such cavalier and arrogant behavior by RTD officials because:

1. even if it were true that there were buses infringing the conditions of permit in operating as express buses when they were tour buses, there was no good reason why over 300 people, involving women and children, should be subject to hardships, indignity and humiliation when the buses concerned could be issued with compound papers to appear before the Road Transport Department at a particular date to deal with the offence concerned;

2. there was at least one, if not more, buses detained which were proper and legal tour buses. For instance, one of the 11 buses detained was from Malacca, which was operating as a normal tour bus, carrying a party of Malaccans to Singapore on Tuesday night as tourists, and returning with the same party of 41 persons on Wednesday night and who were detained at the Tampoi Checkpoint. Although the tour operation tried to reason with the Road Transport Officer attempting to show him the name list of his passenger, and this face could have beer easily verified in a matter of minutes by checking the passports of the passengers concerned, which would show that they had entered Singapore on the same date, and returned to Johore also on the same day, the RTD officer who detained this bus was very arrogant and high-handed and refused to listen to any explanation or to explain why the vehicle was being detained.

3. Road user, in particular commercial vehicle operation like lorry and bus operators and drivers, had for long to suffer in silence because of their livelihood the rude and rough treatment at the hands of the Road Transport Department officials, and if the Johore Bahru incident is hushed up, then it would encourage even worse bullying of road users by RTD officers in the future;

Fourthly, public servants who could create a situation where over 300 people were stranded without sleep, water and food, involving women and children, are clearly not fit to the government servants, and to restore public confidence in the people-orientation of the public service, a public example must be made of the RTD officers who have been guilty of a new version of ‘Pagar Makan Padi’ by not only taking firm disciplinary action against them, but that such action must be seen to be taken to check Road Transport Department officials from running wild as bullies on the road. The RTD officers concerned in the Johore Bahru affairs must be immediately suspended from government service. In the interest of public confidence, the government must not be seen to be condoning the Johore Bahru incident.

Fifthly, Parliament must prove itself as a efficient and competent chamber which could be depended upon to protect the dignity and rights of ordinary people, especially as those of the over 300 passengers who had unncessarily suffered grievous humiliation at the hands of bullies hiding under the cloak of government service.

No other action would do more to restore public confidence in the government service that an immediate and categorical Parliamentary condemnation of the Johore Bahru incident and the power excesses of the RTD officials.