KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak on Tuesday (Feb 26) apologised for insensitive remarks against highway users at night, as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
This came after he stirred controversy by saying that the government’s plan to abolish tolls at four highways from 11pm to 5am would only benefit “ghosts, drunks and LGBT looking for clients”.
In a Facebook post, Najib wrote: “It was not my intention to insult those in society who work at night or those who use the expressways after 11pm.
“I humbly apologise if anybody was offended.”
Najib recounted that during a dialogue on Monday with those voting in the upcoming Semenyih by-election, he had merely repeated phrases called out by the audience, in response to his question on who would benefit from the toll-free period overnight.
“PH (Pakatan Harapan) and the media should not take my words out of context, as an attempt to skew the actual facts, which is PH’s failure to fulfill its manifesto promise,” he said.
Among the campaign promises by the PH government prior to the May 2018 general election was the abolishment of all toll charges.
Later, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said it is not possible to have highways without the imposition of tolls. "We made the manifesto thinking we would not be the government. Now we are the government and this manifesto is a big burden," he had said.
In December, Putrajaya said it will maintain current toll charges for 21 highways this year, as part of efforts to ease the burden of rising living costs.
At the weekend, the PH government announced plans to take over four highway concessions systems - the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong, Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat, Lebuhraya Shah Alam and SMART Tunnel.
The highway tolls will be replaced with a congestion charge system.
Toll charges would be maintained during peak hours, while a 30 per cent discount is given during off-peak hours. The highways are toll-free between 11pm and 5am.
On Tuesday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said commuters are expected to save as much as RM180 million (US$44 million) per annum with reduced traffic congestion during peak hours.