I joined DAP MPs Tony Pua and Nie Ching at the Works Ministry on Friday to take a look at the highway toll concessions that were recently declassified.
The civil servants were civil and polite but had to enforce archaic conditions. Besides the fact that each person can take only one agreement at a time for two hours, we are not allowed to use notebook computers while viewing the agreements! So there we were, about 14 people in all, taking notes the old-fashioned pen-and-paper way. This in a premises with Wi-Fi!
I appreciate the BN government making the agreements public – at least we can now discuss these without the Official Secrets Act (OSA) hanging over our heads. But I would point out salient points have never really been top-secret in the first place – pertinent details are available in Rating Agency Malaysia reports, and have also been given to bankers and analysts as the toll concessionaires raised borrowings or listed themselves on Bursa Malaysia.
Also, the very restricted viewing arrangements are hardly conducive for proper analysis. It would be far more useful if we could make copies of the concessions for thorough analysis instead of having to go to the Ministry every time we need to confirm something. In this internet age, surely the documents can be made available on-line. Or at least, provisions should be made for the public to buy hard copies.
The current arrangements also mean that, practically speaking, the documents are public only to Klang Valley residents. Someone staying in, say, Ipoh can hardly be expected to travel all the way down to KL just for a 2 hour viewing; and even then, he may not get to view the concession he's interested in if someone else has already taken it! There is only one copy of each agreement.
For the benefit of the 15m Malaysians who don't live in the Klang Valley, how about truly making the documents public, Mr Works Minister? Post them on the internet.
On Wed – some of my thoughts on the concession agreements.