MP SPEAKS | Malaysia is becoming an international laughing stock for proposing to revive the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) after paying RM320 million in compensation to Singapore for terminating the project earlier this year.
This flip-flop is symbolic of both the Perikatan Nasional (PN) and BN governments' incompetence and indecisiveness, costing taxpayers unnecessarily RM320 million for a start-stop-start project.
The Pakatan Harapan government had delayed the project in 2018 to allow for a review of the exorbitant pricing and the cost structure agreed to by the previous BN government.
However, the (former prime minister) Muhyiddin Yassin's government was willing to pay RM320 million to break its public promise to continue with the KL-Singapore HSR and instead replace it with KL-Johor Bahru HSR.
The HSR project is not financially viable and logistically impractical if its rail line stops in Johor Bahru and does not pass through Singapore.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's proposal to revive the HSR link makes sense as it will take passengers just 2.5 hours to travel between KL and Singapore, inclusive of the actual 90 minutes train journey, and estimated 15 minutes' immigration checks in each country, as well as 15 minutes' transfer time between the city centres and HSR stations.
This would compare against estimated travel times inclusive of immigration checks using planes (4.2 hours), buses (6.5 hours), and intercity rail service KTM (9.5 hours).
There must be full accountability and transparency by demanding the resignation of ministers responsible for making the recommendation to terminate the KL-Singapore HSR that cost the country RM320 million.
Muhyiddin has already resigned as prime minister and the ministers involved, such as International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamad and the Transport Ministry must explain.
Singapore's Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had revealed in March this year that the main reason why both countries could not reach an agreement on the HSR project was that Malaysia wanted to do away with the jointly-tendered asset company (AssetsCo).
Ong added that through an open and transparent international tender, AssetCo would have ensured accountability to both countries.
Clearly, this lack of commitment to transparency and open tenders by the Malaysian government is disappointing.
Will Ismail Sabri now conform to open tenders and transparency under the revived KL-Singapore HSR as well as ensure that the cost structure is not excessive and disadvantageous to Malaysia?
LIM GUAN ENG is Bagan MP and DAP secretary-general.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.