Somewhere back in the 90s, I was in India and one of the newspaper headlines screamed “Protestors latti-charged” , ” A minister fined 200 lakhs”. Being non Indian national, I did not understand the headlines. It was only later at night when I was watching the news I understood what the terms “latti” and “lakhs” meant. Not the actual meaning but form the watching the news I got the nuance of them. “Latti”must be something to do with the sticks that the police used to charge and beat the hell out of the rioters and ‘lakhs” must be some sort of numerical value like our ratus, ribu, and….yes laksa. Yeah, laksa must come from ‘lakhs ‘- a hundred thousand. Fast forward to these few weeks, I had the same feeling when the media started throwing around terms like muzakarah in describing the cloak and dagger meeting between PAS and UMNO leaders. A few weeks earlier, the media were splashing the words mubahalah in the DSAI – Shaiful sodomy case. Now that must be something to do with the swearing in the name of Allah to prove that one is telling the truth and nothing but the truth. If one is not telling the truth, he/she shall incur the ‘laknat’ – God’s condemnation. Then Nik Aziz, the Kelantan MB threw in another Arabic term, “muqabalah”, to express his opinion on the meetings between UMNO and PAS leaders. Ironically, I had no problem understanding the Mercedes E200 Kompressor though!
Speaking of which I had a few theories to elaborate. Proton Perdana was made compulsory cars to government’s head of departments and state administrators. It was a policy made during the recession years of the 1990s. Back then, Proton had some sort of protection so they just produce cars to meet the overwhelming demand. People had no choice but to buy Proton either because they cannot afford to buy other brands or because the Government say you must buy Proton. With very little competition, Proton just churned out cars with scant regard for quality and customers complaints. Following a logical path, cars produced in such a manner definitely would rake up extremely high maintenance costs due to high frequency of breakdowns. But if you ask the Proton people on reasons of their poor quality products, they would simply said it was the handiwork of their vendors who were appointed on recommendations of political powers and Proton cannot simply sack them because they are the untouchable Bumi entreprenures. Ouch.. being a Bumi, I cringe at that.
On top of that, cars belonging to the government departments mostly chalked up high mileage and driven by devil may care drivers. Why worry, it is a Government’s car! From my observation being in the government department for quite a number of years, the “care” and “feeling” towards a government’s car is below par, just like the sense of belonging towards any other governments’ properties. That is another contributing factor towards the high maintenance costs. On top of that, they were cases of people jacking up the repair costs to cover for the delay in the getting the money from the Government. Back then, it could take up to 3 months to get payment from the Government. They were also cases of repairmen and the government people engaging in ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ agreement. All these issues in totality costs the Government in millions of ringgit. In early 2000s or late 90s the government decided to privatise the vehicle maintenance in order to streamline the business and part of the privatisation policy. Remember those days when they would privatise anything that you could think of. That exercise bred TNB, TM, Pos Malaysia, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Puspakom, and hosts of other entities as well as IPPs, Plus higways, AKLEH, LDP, UDA, etc. So for vehicle management, an entity called Spanco was formed to buy Proton vehicles and lease them back to Government. Spanco also took care of the maintenance thru’ their workshops and appointed ones. So far nobody came out with a comparison of the charges incurred by Spanco to government. Going by the general trend of agreement with the IPPs and the highway consessionnaires, most probably it is higher than normal workshop charges. I stand corrected on this as I have no info. But I had this sneaky feeling, this is the reason why the various state governments that are using Perdana complaint of high maintenance charges, whereas Proton keep saying that their charges are reasonanble. There is this middlemen factor coming in for the Government. So, it all boils down to attitude and sense of integrity. So now the Terengganu government had to fork out extra money to buy a new set of 14 Perdana as they cannot sell off the newly acquired Mercedes Kompressor. Maybe I should invite my old mechanic in Tullibody, Scotland to come to Terengganu on the pretext of making some sort of investment. He will then the chance to ride on that E200 Kompressor. Can you imagine how many foreign dignitaries and how often do they come to Terengganu? Spare the E200 just for them. Huh..What a convulated logic!