Najib Abdul Razak has apologised for his remarks during a meet-the-people session in Semenyih last night.
In a Facebook posting this afternoon, the former premier clarified that he did not intend to belittle those who worked late shifts and travelled on highways after 11pm.
“If you watch the video recording of the event, I was merely repeating what the audience stated...
“I admit, I got carried away with the answers and responses from the audience. I humbly apologise to those who were hurt by my remarks,” he added.
In criticising the government's plan to make four highways toll-free between 11pm and 5pm, Najib said this was not logical as people would be asleep during these hours.
“Who will stay awake from 11pm to 5am? Only ghosts, drunkards, LGBTs and those who are looking for customers, maybe,” he added.
Najib courted brickbats for his remarks from certain quarters. Among them was lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who is also DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang's political secretary.
“No wonder (Najib lost) – He did not know there are Malaysians who work night shifts,” he tweeted this morning.
In his Facebook post, Najib said the main issue was that Harapan had promised to abolish tolls in its election manifesto instead of allowing motorists to use the highways toll-free for a certain period of time.
“As well as not using the new excuse of rebranding toll charges as 'congestion' charges.
“Harapan and the media should not use one or two sentences from my speech to divert from the fact that Harapan has failed to deliver its promise and is once again attempting to hoodwink the people,” he added.
Last Saturday, the Prime Minister's Office announced that the government is negotiating with Gamuda Bhd to acquire the four highway concessions.
If the takeover is successful, the government intends to replace the existing toll mechanism with a congestion charge for six hours (peak period).
Apart from travelling for free between 11pm and 5am, commuters would also enjoy discounted rates of up to 30 percent compared to existing toll rates during normal hours.