by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, September 10, 1990:
Two calls by Lim Kit Siang, firstly to Cheras residents not to participate in illegal assemblies; and secondly, to the Government to immediately suspend the Cheras tolls collections
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, has made contradictory statements about me yesterday. According to the Star, Tan Sri Rahim Noor told me and other political leaders to “stay out of the Cheras toll issue”. However, according to the New Straits Times, he urged me and other DAP leaders to advise the Cheras residents not to participate in illegal assemblies.
These statements are contradictory for if I am to ‘stay out’ of the Cheras toll issue, then I cannot be giving any advice to the Cheras residents.
Let me declare from the outset that neither the DAP nor I can ‘stay out’ of the Cheras toll issue because it concerns the welfare of 200,000 people in the 60-odd housing estates affected by the new Cheraas tolls, and the extra burden imposed by the tolls amounting to an average of $200 a month per household is grossly burdensome and unfair.
The DAP will be failing in our duty both as elected representatives of the people as well as a political party if we ‘stay out’ of the Cheras toll issue, and ignore and disregard the grievances and sufferings of the people.
As far as I am concerned, I can only ‘stay out’ of the people’s issues and problems only if I am physically prevented from doing so, or when I have retired from public life.
Let me tell Tan Sri Rahim Noor that if he wants me to ‘stay out’ of the Cheras toll issues, there is only one way he could do it – that is to detain me under the Internal Security Act for a third time and shut me up!
The Internal Security Act has now been illegally expanded to deal with those who oppose road tolls, like the DAP MP for Sungei Besi, Sdr. Tan Kok Wai, and if I am detained under the ISA, I will forthrightly confirm that I, as well as the DAP, is indeed opposed to the Cheras tolls!
However, I want to make it clear that although the DAP cannot ‘stay out’ or abdicate from our political responsibility to represent the people against the unfair Cheras tolls imposition, the DAP does not encourage violence or breaches of the law.
Alex Lee and Teratai chiefly responsible for creating the ‘bad blood’ and confrontational atmosphere over Cheras tolls issue
I have no hesitation in responding to the call by Tan Sri Rahim Noor to advise Cheras residents not to participate in illegal assemblies.
The DAP wants the Cheras tolls issue resolved amicably and in the spirit of consultation rather than confrontation.
It is the high-handed attitude of the authorities, like the Deputy Works Minister, Alex Lee, and the tolls collection company, Syarikat Teratai K.S.Sdn. Bhd., which showed that they have no respect whatsoever for the views of the Cheras residents, which created the ‘bad blood’ over the tolls issue, generating a confrontational atmosphere.
Alex Lee had at first given the Cheras residents false hopes that th eCheras tolls would not be imposed for at least one more year. The great disappointment and frustration of the Cheras residents was aggravated by the secretive manner in which the Cheras toll plazas were completed and the tolls imposed, as if the authorities and Syarikat Teratai were involved in a conspiracy to deceive the Cheras residents.
In fact, the Cheras residents now wonder whether Alex Lee was not helping Teratai to distract their attention from the imposition of the tolls from Sept 1, for nobody could believe that a Deputy Wrks Minister did not know about the progress of the construction of the tolls plaza.
Why weren’t the Cheras residents given advance notice, of at least or three months, that the Cheras tolls would begin to be imposed on September 1 so that there was ample time for them to make representations against the tolls levy?
Instead, the Cheras tolls were imposed as a fait accompli, without giving the Cheras residents opportunity to submit their grievances to the proper channels or authorities?
What is worse, the authorities and Teratai continued to be completely insensitive to be feelings of the Cheras residents when they proceeded to close off access roads and slipways, which was the main cause for the frustrations and anger over the Cheras tolls issue to boil over on Friday.
There is also a need for the police to review its crowd control techniques. The Friday demonstrations was not organized by anyone, but a spontaneous manifestrations was not organized by anyone, but a spontaneous manifestation of the people’s frustrations and anger at the high-handed manner in which the Cheras tolls was imposed on the Cheras residents.
Why couldn’t the police control the crowds on Friday without allowing the situation getting out of hand?
Why couldn’t the police control the crowds on Friday without allowing the situation getting out of hand? There should be an open investigation into how and why the crowd situation got out of hand on Friday.
Be that as it may, the most urgent problem today is the settlement of the Cheras tolls issue amicably and in spirit of consultation and not confrontation.
The imposition of Cheras tolls on Sept 1 without notice was the first act of confrontation
I therefore wish to make two calls to resolve the Cheras tolls issue.
Firstly, I call on the Cheras residents not to participate in illegal assemblies. Secondly, I call on the Government to immediately suspend the Cheras tolls collection.
The imposition of the Cheras tolls on Sept 1 without prior notice, and after an official assurance by the Government through the Deputy Workd Minister that no toll would be imposed for at least one year, is the first act of confrontation that has led to this sorry situation in the Cheras tolls issue.
Let everyone go back to the situation before this first act of confrontation on Sept 1 when the Cheras residents believed in the government assurance made by Alex Lee that there would be no toll for at least another year.
In response to Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s call, I am eve prepared to go round the Cheras area and housing estates with the police to urge the people not to participate in illegal assemblies.
The Government, however, must play its part by ensuring, as Tan Sri Rahim Noor has said, that there are proper channels for them to forward their grievances and alternative routes for the Cheras residents if they of not want to pay toll. If there are no suitable alternative routes, then the Cheras tolls collection should be suspended until such alternative routes are made available.
Call on Dr. Mahathir and all Barisan Nasional leaders not to turn the Cheras tolls issue into a party political issue or a communal issue
The Cheras tolls issue is an issue concerning the ordinary people, and I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, and all other Barisan Nasional leaders not to turn it into a party political or communal issue.
I feel very sad at the statement by Dr. Mahathir yesterday which is calculated to make Cheras tolls issue into a communal issue.
When I cisited the Cheras toll plaza on Saturday, a Malay resident was most vociferous in denouncing the Cheras tolls plaza, because it means an extra $6 burden a day for him.
I invite Dr. Mahathir and all Barisan Nasional leasers to keep racial sentiments out of the Cheras tolls issue! In view of Dr. Mahathir’s statement, I am publicly directing all DAP leaders to ensure that the Cheras tolls issue does not become a racial issue. Is Dr. Mahathir prepared to issue a similar public directive to all UMNO as well as Barisan Nasional leaders?
On Friday, the Deputy IGP had accused a political party of ‘politicising’ the Cheras tolls issue. If there are political leaders who are ‘politicising’ the issue, it is people like the Information Minister and UMNO Secretary-General, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat, who is only interested in using the issue to attack the DAP and not to solve the problem of the 200,000 Cheras residents.
The DAP, on the other hand, is only interested in solving the problem of the 200,000 Cheras residents over the Cheras tolls issue.
Finally, I urge the Deputy IGP and the Police not to regard the 200,000 Cheras residents as ‘anti-national’ elements or ‘bad-hats’, who want to engineer a complete breakdown of law and order. There is no such thing. What we have in Cheras are very unhappy law-abiding people who feel increasingly frustrated and angry at the tolls they are forced to ay at Cheras.
If the Federal Riot Squad has become the chief instrument to resolve the people’s socio-economic problem, something is very wrong with our system of government
This is not a police or law-and-order problem, but the socio-economic problem of the people. If such a people’s problem could degenerate into a grave law-and-order problem, to the extent that tear gas had to be fired and there is even talk of curfew, then the whole Cheras tolls issue has been very badly handled by all the relevant government authorities concerned.
If the Federal Riot Squad has become the only instrument to resolve the Cheras tolls issue, then something is very wrong with our system of government. The DAP is prepared to give its full co-operation to ensure that the Cheras tolls issue ceases to be a police problem, and is dealt with solely as the people’s socio-economic problem.