The negotiations on the construction of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) by the previous BN government were not transparent and were conducted without any detailed study, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
“It was the former prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak) who conducted the negotiations, there was no due diligence, no feasibility study,” he told a Malaysian media conference at the end of his five-day visit to China to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) which ended yesterday.
The new government, led by Pakatan Harapan, decided to continue the ECRL project, which would connect the east coast states in Peninsular Malaysia, following the successful negotiation by Daim Zainuddin, who was appointed as the special envoy of the prime minister to head the ECRL negotiation with China.
The negotiation had resulted in the construction cost being reduced by 32.8 percent, from the initial RM65.5 billion price tag to RM44 billion.
When asked whether there was any possibility of the cost being reduced even further, Mahathir did not discount the possibility, but said that it would depend on the scope of work for the project.
The prime minister was also asked about Daim’s statement during a recent interview with Bernama that the negotiation on the ECRL by the previous government was conducted by a personal emissary of the former prime minister.
“That is the information that we have, that it was the former prime minister who made the negotiation, that there was no due diligence, no feasibility study,” he said.
During the interview with Bernama, Daim also questioned whether the personal emissary had negotiated directly with China and China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), which resulted in the old ECRL deal being signed at a very high cost and without transparency or accountability to the people.
“Was it prepared by the EPU (Economic Planning Unit), which should have been the case, or was the EPU instructed to accept the proposal paper prepared by another agency?” he had said.
Meanwhile, Mahathir said the government would be revealing the details surrounding the ECRL contract.
“Yes we will reveal to the public, but we have to understand the sensitivities of the Chinese. We don’t want to say anything that might hurt their feelings. We have revealed a lot already,” he said.