By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Most readers were angry when they saw newspaper headlines informing that the maximum fine for traffic-related offences would be doubled to RM2,000.
Wait a minute! JPJ deputy director-general Datuk Ismail Ahmad clarified that if a traffic offender chooses to settle his case by paying the compound, the total fine amount cannot be above RM300. And only those who were brought to court might face fines between RM300 to RM2,000.
It is stupid to make the first mistake and the same mistake should never be repeated.
The Transport Ministry tabled the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2010 in the Dewan Rakyat for first reading on April 19, 2010, proposing to increase the maximum fine for traffic summons from RM300 to RM1,000. It was immediately condemned and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz later announced the withdrawal of the Bill on April 21.
The amendment bill this time is meant to increase the maximum fine for traffic court cases. However, the bill was not clearly elaborated, causing the media to report that the maximum fine for traffic summons would be increased from RM1,000 to RM2,000.
If the bill was clearly written, if the involved officials had immediately explained to the media, such a misunderstanding could be avoided. We should learn from past experience.
According to Ismail, the objective of the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2012 is to deal with stubborn traffic offenders and to ensure fines imposed by courts will not be less than summons fines. However, I believe that one of the purposes is to solve the problem of accumulated unsettled summonses.
Under the existing practice, if an offender settles his summons within 15 days, he would have to pay only RM150, if he pays it between 15 to 30 days, the compound becomes RM200, and between 30 and 60 days, RM250. If he chooses to bring the case to court, the judge may impose a maximum fine of RM2,000.
High fines could warn offenders not to challenge law enforcement agencies in courts while reminding them to quickly settle their summonses. However, does heavy punishment really work?
There are about 17 million unsettled summons issued by the police, the JPJ and the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL), involving a total amount of over RM2.55 billion.
The government decided in May 2010 not to cancel or offer discounts but announced in the end of the year to offer 50% of discount. The discount period had even been repeatedly postponed until March 10, 2011.
During the discount period, averagely 31, 500 summonses were settled daily and the number increased to 187, 400 summonses at the end of the period.
However, no one knows whether the number of unsettled summonses has been accumulated to a new high or not after the discount period was ended, and whether the Transportation Ministry has any countermeasures to reduce the number of unsettled summonses.
The key still lies on law enforcement and efficiency. Is there a follow up mechanism after summonses are issued? Who would believe it if the authorities keep changing their attitudes?
Similarly, efforts to curb corruption and reduce crimes must be sustained. It is also the essence of the government's transformation plans.
Working by fits and starts and the lack of concentration are the drawbacks of the government administration.