Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rapid Penang to takeover !

Rapid KL will takeover the penang bus service in the name of Rapid Penang... a CNY present for Penangites?

The previous problem of Penang bus system was the licensing control by bureaucrats far away in KL. The setting up of Penang State government owned bus company is perceived as a positive move to divert the power of controlling bus service to the state level, and also to get rid of those notorious bus operators. But now the rapid annoucement of Rapid KL coming in, is just killing the Penang Bus Company before its birth.

Rapid Penang takeover has sparked concerns among the local groups, especially CEPAT (Coalition for Public Transport), a coalition of local NGOs that demanding better public transports for Penangites. One of the major demand of CEPAT is to have local people (public transports users) representation in decision making regarding public transport in Penang. Now, without any mechanism that includes public participation and consultation, another multi-millions project has been contracted out.

See below are the responses (letters to editor) from members of CEPAT:

Dear Editor,

We refer to the news report on the complaint made by the bus companies against the Penang State Govt over their lack of subsidies. (NST 22/02/07). We don't know on what basis these bus Co's were appointed by the CVLB last February (with great fanfare) but we believe they accepted their contracts which included their obligations as licensees under the CVLB Act, voluntarily . We are unaware of any contractual agreement on the part of the State Govt regarding subsidies for their operations. If they could not operate without such subsidies, they should not have accepted their contracts under those terms.

It is unthinkable that now, after having failed to carry out the terms of their agreement by flouting every condition attached to their licenses at the public's expense, they are trying to blame the Govt for their failure. We can only speculate if this is a ploy to later claim compensation from the Govt for their 'loss of business'!

We are certain that the CVLB that appointed them and their chairman YB Markiman (a member of the legal profession himself) will be fully aware of the terms of the CVLB Act under which they are permitted to operate. Under the statute, not only are they not entitled to compensation but they are actually liable to fines (not exceeding RM10,000) and jail terms (not exceeding 12 months) for breaching the conditions of their licenses. In any case, this complaint should rightly be dealt with by the CVLB to which these operating companies have contractual obligations and not the State Govt. How this matter is resolved will be a matter of public interest because if the CVLB decides to make compensatory payments not only will it be exceeding its own statutory powers but also uding public funds for illegal payments. After allowing these bus Co's to take the State Govt and the people 'for a ride,' to further compensate them using taxpayers money will be like adding insult to injury.
The long suffering citizens of Penang will not be amused!

Dr Choong Sim Poey,
Coordinator, CEPAT.

Dear Editor,

I refer to the report in the STAR dated 23rd Feb which highlighted complaints by two bus companies against the State Government. We have heard for so many years the numerous complaints made by commuters who have had to endure the pathetic service dished out by the bus operators in Penang. The bus operators never bothered to do anything to improve their services despite being given ample time to do so. Now, when they suddenly realise that an alternative operator may land in Penang and takeover the service, they are crying foul - blaming the State Government for working against them and not living up to their promises! These irresponsible bus operators have no one to blame but themselves. They should not have underestimated the power of the Penang public who have in recent years organised themselves to systematically document and inform the State and Federal government of all the violations that these bus operators committed with impunity. This includes the CEPAT public survey, demonstrations and meetings with the CVLB.

Did the bus operators think they could get away with sub-standard services and Penangites would just sit back and take all that crap? In any case these bus operators do not have any right to ask anyone else to live up to their promises. They seem to always harp on what has been promised to them by the State Government e.g. loans to upgrade the busses. But did they even try and keep the promises they made to the State Government and the Penang public when they were given a 2nd chance in Apr'06? They promised various changes including issuing bus tickets, scheduled bus service and even clean busses! But has this materialised 11 months later? We still have stinking busses waiting at the Komtar terminal for almost 30 minutes, rude drivers and no tickets! They have been judged by the people of Penang and have been found to be utterly wanting. As such, i would say to them this: Your time is up. You have had your chance. Now, get ready to pack up and leave without whining like spoilt child!

Joachim F. Xavier

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