Don’t claim ignorance over toll concessions, Najib tells Mahathir

Najib Razak says the vast majority of the toll concessions were agreed on or signed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first stint as the prime minister with the biggest one being PLUS highways. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Najib Razak today hit out at Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad over his “excuse” as to why Pakatan Harapan failed to abolish tolls as promised prior to the May 9 polls.

In an interview with the media recently, Mahathir had said the government was not able to remove highway tolls as it realised it had no money to buy off the highways, adding that the PLUS highway alone would cost RM30 billion.

But Najib said Mahathir could not claim ignorance of such matters as the vast majority of the toll concessions were agreed on or signed during his first stint as the prime minister with the biggest one being PLUS highways.

This, he said, also included all the agreed toll increases over the years that subsequent prime ministers had to bear by paying compensation in order to stop the toll increases.

“That is why when I was PM, we got Khazanah and EPF to fully buy-over PLUS Berhad from the private owners and we proceeded to renegotiate the toll concession to reduce the agreed toll increases.

“Which is why during my time as the prime minister, there were no toll increases for all PLUS Berhad owned concessions, including the North South Highway, the Penang Bridge, the NKVE and others,” he told FMT, adding that his administration had also closed down several highway toll plazas as and when the government could afford it, including four toll plazas in 2017.

Najib also said when he was finance minister in October 2008, he declassified all the toll concession agreements which were previously under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to ensure toll agreements were no longer a secret.

The public, which includes those who drafted the manifesto, would have access to such details. Many DAP and PKR leaders, he claimed, had studied them.

“And if the sum was too huge, as they claim it is, would it not have set off alarm bells?”

He then took a swipe at DAP’s Tony Pua who had earlier insisted that it would only cost RM25 billion to abolish all tolls, especially since Baru Bian, the current works minister, had said it would cost over RM300 billion to do so.

“I don’t know how Pua calculated his RM25 billion cost to abolish all tolls. If he still wants to stick to it, he should be given a budget of RM30 billion by PH and then be asked to deliver that pledge.”