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Minister left 'bewildered' by Azmin, Lim's different tracks on ECRL

Published:  |  Modified:

A minister has expressed his confusion over two cabinet colleagues who issued contradictory statements on the status of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, despite attending the same meeting.

The minister was referring to Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali confirming the termination of the contentious megaproject, and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng initially saying that the former was not at the meeting in which the project was discussed. 

"In the case of Lim and Azmin, the two conflicting statements bewildered me.

"Lim said Azmin did not attend the meeting and was therefore ignorant of the facts. No, Azmin was there," the minister told Malaysiakini on the condition of anonymity.

Singapore's Straits Times had initially reported that Putrajaya was in the process of seeking a new contractor to lead the ECRL project.

On Saturday, Azmin said that the cabinet had decided to terminate the project altogether, citing the RM500 million annual interest it would incur. He added that this was decided upon in a cabinet meeting two days prior.

However, Lim had later clarified he did not intend to imply Azmin was not present during the meeting, but that the latter might "not have been informed" of certain matters decided by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad during the meeting.

"I was shocked to see his (Azmin's) announcement, but maybe that is the position," he said.

Lim subsequently explained again that his "shock" was over the timing and not the content of his colleague's statement.

The finance minister also said yesterday that the cabinet will make an official announcement on the status of the ECRL next week. 

'No clear cut decision'

As the minister also told Malaysiakini, however, it was not decided during the cabinet meeting chaired by Mahathir that the ECRL would be terminated.

"The prime minister gave us a clear instruction to further study the ECRL contract. We have a target number, and we need to arbitrate this number.

"As far as I know, there is no clear-cut decision to terminate, but a discussion needs to be pursued that could lead to the termination of the contract," the source said.

It was previously reported that Putrajaya was seeking to halve the project cost for the RM81 billion ECRL, besides pushing for the use of local materials. 

The minister added that termination would only take place if the Chinese contractor does not agree to the target price.

"We need to renegotiate, we need to arbitrate as the price is ridiculous. We have to negotiate a target price that we believe we can work on."

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