Thursday, November 8, 2012

Umno grassroots take page from Pakatan script in fight against AES

Umno grassroots take page from Pakatan script in fight against AES

November 08, 2012
Malaysian Insider
 
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — The government’s insistence on going ahead with the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) is seeing growing resistance from Umno grassroots with a blog and Facebook account set up this week to oppose the speed cameras, in a sign that the speed cameras are turning into a political quagmire for Barisan Nasional (BN).

A blog has asked why a speed camera has been fixed on the wide Putrajaya Highway but none on the accident-prone Gambang-Maran trunk road near Kuantan.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has already given notice of its intentions to exploit the AES controversy and with elections just months away, Umno grassroots are now turning on the heat against what has been seen as an MCA initiative. aes-malaysia.blogspot.com, a blog set up by anonymous Umno supporters this week, appears to be taking a page out of the federal opposition’s script in its posts that attack the AES cameras.
In its latest post, the blog’s author posts two photographs — one of the Gambang-Maran trunk road near Kuantan that is prone to accidents, and the other of the main highway into Putrajaya.

The Gambang-Maran road has no AES installed, while a speed camera has been installed at the Putrajaya Highway.

“Does it make sense that a dual carriageway in Putrajaya has a speed limit of 70kph, while a federal road from Gambang to Maran that is exposed to many junctions, people crossing, cows crossing, has a speed limit of 90kph with no AES.

“This wide road in Putrajaya... with an AES camera. How many people have died there?”
The widespread suspicion that the introduction of the AES is motivated by profits and not road safety has been at the heart of PR’s campaign and rising public anger.

A number of BN politicians are also becoming worried about it becoming a major campaign issue in the next general election, and want the government to suspend the AES.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir joined the growing chorus of objections earlier this week.

“We have to study (the AES)... is the implementation only bringing profits to some parties? It is as if it is profit-oriented. That is what is being disputed,” he said earlier in the week.

The two firms awarded the contract to implement the enforcement system — ATES Sdn Bhd and Beta Tegap — will spend between RM300 million and RM400 million each to set up traffic cameras at 831 “black spots” nationwide.

Both ATES and Beta Tegap are entitled to RM16 per valid summons for the first five million issued. They will then split the remaining revenue evenly with the government up to a cap of RM270 million each.
The firms will each receive 7.5 per cent from the remaining revenue and the government will keep the rest.
PR parties have suggested that the companies are linked to the MCA and Umno but this has been vehemently denied.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the outsourcing of speed cameras and speeding tickets was mooted during the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration, and despite objections from some ministers who argued that enforcement and summonses should remain within the government’s domain, the project was pushed through by the Transport Ministry.

It is understood the project was proposed while Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy — now facing a cheating trial over the Pork Klang Free Zone scandal — was minister, but was finalised during the time Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat was at the helm of the ministry.

Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, who is now transport minister, has now become the most vocal proponent of AES.

Besides aes-malaysia.blogspot.com, a number of other pro-BN blogs representing Umno interests have started hitting out against the AES.

A Facebook page known as Tangguh-AES (Suspend AES) was also set up this month by an anonymous group calling itself a government supporters’ group.

The aes-malaysia.blogspot.com blog also provides links to news stories from the United States, Britain and Australia about how speed cameras have become cash cows for local councils.

The arguments put up by Umno supporters mirror that of PR parties, suggesting concerns that the AES controversy could unite voters behind the federal opposition.

“If AES is allowed to proceed it will be very difficult for us to answer accusations hurled at us by the opposition. This is one issue that can potentially unite all the races against BN,” an Umno branch leader from Perak told The Malaysian Insider.

While Kong and other government leaders have been defending AES in the name of road safety, the two companies concerned have kept silent about the controversial cameras.

The business model being used for the outsourcing of enforcement has also led to suspicions that the companies operating the AES will be motivated to issue more speeding tickets rather than ensure motorists slow down.

A whopping 2.72 million speeding tickets will have to be issued in each of the next five years for the two concession holders of the controversial AES cameras to just recoup their reported RM700 million investments.

And considering the authorities had only collected an average of about 25 per cent of all traffic summonses a year — which increased to 65 per cent only after a general discount was offered last year — the two companies will have to issue far more summonses to account for the poor collection.

To hit the RM700 million break-even mark, a total of 13.6 million summonses of RM300 each for speeding and other major offences will have to be issued via the AES cameras.

The two companies will have five years to get to the 13.6 million summonses break-even point before the entire system reverts to the government.

To ensure the companies profit from the deal with the government, they will almost certainly have to issue more than 13.6 million summonses.

Assuming the two companies were targeting a total profit of RM100 million after five years, calculations show they would have issue up to 18.2 million summonses in five years.

According to federal estimates for Budget 2013, the government expects to see an additional RM1.02 billion in revenue from its share of AES enforcement, but it has not stated how much will be paid out to the two companies.

There is also growing concern among BN politicians that insisting on the AES could prove costly to BN in the next elections which must be called in the next six months.

Last week, Umno MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin crossed the political divide and backed the opposition PR pact in calling for Putrajaya to suspend enforcing the AES, saying it could be used as campaign fodder against the ruling BN.

Bung Mokhtar, a seasoned Umno lawmaker, is the most senior member of the ruling coalition after Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin to urge the federal government to delay the newly-introduced traffic enforcement system.
Kedah, Penang, Kelantan and Selangor ― all governed by PR ― have decided to suspend approval for the AES that detects speeding motorists and issues fines.

Several influential non-government organisations including the umbrella body representing civil servants, Cuepacs, have also opposed the enforcement, saying the system was not currently suitable. They also want the government to review the locations where the AES would operate.

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