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The government has yet to make any firm decision on the proposal to take over 15 highways, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), which is managed by PLUS. -NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

PUTRAJAYA: The government has yet to make any firm decision on the proposal to take over 15 highways, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), which is managed by PLUS.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when asked by reporters to confirm the matter said: "Please wait for the written statement."

Lim, however, confirmed that the matter was deliberated in today's Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"The Cabinet discussed many things including PLUS tolls. As I have said before, please wait for the written statement," he said after presenting the RM100 million allocation to upgrade and maintain tahfiz schools, pondok schools and Sekolah Menengah Agama Rakyat.

Also present was Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng presenting the RM100 million allocation to upgrade and maintain tahfiz schools, pondok schools and Sekolah Menengah Agama Rakyat. -NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

Asked if the written statement would be issued today, Lim asked reporters to wait for it.

The minister had previously said that he could not elaborate on the matter due to its sensitive nature.

The New Straits Times had reported on a proposal for the government to take over 15 highways, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), which is managed by PLUS, for a combined RM43 billion. The possible acquisitions would be paid via the issuance of debt paper to the concessionaires.

Pakatan Harapan had pledged to end toll collection in its election manifesto.

A decision on the takeover was supposed to have been made last week, but it is understood that the Cabinet had ordered the ministries in charge of works, economic affairs and finance to return to the drawing board and decide on certain details before reaching a decision.

Last Thursday, Lim announced that the freeze on toll hikes for this year would be retained.

In Dec 2018, the government chose to maintain existing toll rates at all expressways in the country for 2019.

On a separate matter, Lim said the Ponggal issue was also raised in today's Cabinet meeting.

To a question, Mujahid said he had also provided explanation on the Ponggal issue in Cabinet.

Elaborating, he said the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) gave its opinions to the Education Ministry when asked about it.

"We submit to the Education Ministry (our views) and it is up to the ministry to decide on the best way to explain to the public and the concerned parties, the Muslims.

“Jakim has never prohibited any festival and it (drafting the said letter to the schools) was not done by us.

“We have made it clear to those who wish to attend the (Ponggal) celebration that they must also respect others from different faiths," he said.

The Education Ministry and Jakim had separately issued statements on the matter to clear the air.

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