Selangor’s DRT project: A political conundrum

The decision at hand is unfortunately a political one: carry on with Asia Mobiliti as it is or go with another company with no political baggage

HEBI B/PIXABAY

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By JJ Singam

In the realm of politics, where the ‘gods’ plot their courses, it is often the peasants who bear the consequences.

Such is the case with the Selangor transport project, known as the “demand-responsive transit” (DRT) system, which has become the centre of a heated debacle.

Asia Mobiliti, a private company led by the husband of a federal minister, has been thrust into the limelight, causing ripples across the political landscape.

It all began on 24 May, when Selangor state executive councillor Ng Sze Han defended the appointment of Asia Mobiliti.

The company’s status – approved by the federal Land Public Transport Agency – was cited alongside a clear explanation of the factors considered prior to the award.

This set off a chain reaction of reports and articles, each adding its voice to the unfolding drama:

  • “MCA calls for MACC probe on Selangor mobility initiative” (The Star, 26 May)
  • “MCA: Without Hannah’s link, would hubby’s firm easily win mobility project from Selangor state government without open tender?” (Focus Malaysia, 26 May)
  • “Firm linked to Hannah Yeoh’s hubby explains why direct nego is preferred in DRT service project award” (Focus Malaysia, 27 May)
  • “MACC sees ‘no issue’ in the award of contract to firm linked to Hannah Yeoh’s husband” (New Straits Times, 27 May)
  • “Hannah Yeoh must resign as minister or hubby quits firm he co-founded to prevent embarrassment” (Focus Malaysia, 27 May)
  • “Investigate Asia Mobiliti deal if there’s a report, says Anwar” (Free Malaysia Today, 28 May)
  • “Opposition rep demands Selangor cancel DRT transport deal with Asia Mobiliti co-founded by Hannah Yeoh’s husband” (Malay Mail, 29 May)
  • “Government reiterates no awarding of contract to Asia Mobiliti” (New Straits Times, 29 May)
  • “DAP Wanita defends Hannah Yeoh” (Harapan Daily, 29 May)
  • “Investigate DRT deal, says MCA division youth leaders” (The Star, 29 May)
  • “Selangor MB ready to provide full disclosure on Asia Mobiliti” (Harapan Daily, 30 May)

The cacophony of headlines is enough to make one’s head spin, with ‘friendly fire’ from a component of the “unity government'”, the MCA, targeting Hannah Yeoh and, by extension, the party’s coalition partner, the DAP.

The situation begs the question: is resignation the only course of action to rectify this situation? Should the minister step down and should her husband’s company withdraw from its appointment by the Selangor government?

The extensive public discourse by figures such as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, a Selangor state executive councillor and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief suggests a major blunder.

Why weren’t the political advisers, strategists, tacticians, analysts and consultants consulted to discuss the potential fallout before the decision was made?

Minister Hannah Yeoh has conceivably the largest fan base among politicians, especially from the younger generation, for her ability to connect with them and for her whiter-than-white profile ever since she came to prominence in politics. She has been a veritable poster girl for the DAP, Pakatan Harapan and now the unity government, built upon a platform of a corruption-free government and good governance.

The situation at hand threatens to derail this iconic status and could prove to be a disaster for the DAP, which ironically finds itself in a position reminiscent of the MCA’s past, a role reversal that is not lost on the public.

The DAP secretary general reportedly said in recent times words to the effect that the DAP is now in government and thus not able to publicly call out perceived wrongdoings by coalition partners. Rather, it now has to through ‘proper channels’.

Many are familiar with the many times the DAP harped on about corruption in Umno, the MCA and the MIC in the then ruling Barisan Nasional coalition during its long, uninterrupted tenure as government.

Goodwill built over the decades on the DAP’s anti-corruption stand and champion-of- the-common-people platform is now precariously balanced.

It is not just because of this current case but also because of the many court cases involving politicians from the DAP’s present coalition partner Umno and the latter’s acting and past presidents.

Politics and business – is any coalition government impervious to the allure of power and the rewards that come with it?

If we strip bare the issue, it is all about how opposition politicians manipulate it, how influencers portray it, how analysts and journalists word it and ultimately how the public, especially voters, view it.

How naive could seasoned politicians be to hand over fodder for ammunition on a silver platter to the opposition?

A siege mentality is never a good thing. However, do not volunteer yourselves as the piñata (a paper-mache figure stuffed with goodies) in a ‘bash the donkey’ game.

It is a pity that the proposed DRT system has become mired in this unnecessary controversy.

The system appears to be an efficient method to conceivably provide the last-mile link for commuters on public transport systems to get from their homes to the respective depots and back. It’s the missing piece that prevents people from using public transport, causing traffic jams and pollution.

The DRT project is necessary to reduce daily road users’ suffering.

The decision at hand is unfortunately a political one: carry on with Asia Mobiliti as it is or go with another company with no political baggage.

The fate of the unity government may hang in the balance.

JJ Singam is a regular reader of Aliran.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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