Prime Minister-to-be Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said Malaysia should re-look into the controversial East Coast Rail Link, a project mooted by ex-PM Najib Razak to bail out the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
The government of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave the go-ahead to the ECRL project after tense negotiations with China which brought a cut in the cost, saving Malaysia billions of dollars.
China is financing the rail network which critics say is not a profitable deal for Malaysia but is a lucrative deal for the Chinese and the companies involved in the construction.
But with revelations in court that the project was allegedly created with the intent to get China to assist Najib in covering soaring 1MDB debts, Anwar says the project must be reviewed.
“Based on this evidence, we need to review the facts,” said Anwar.
He said there is a need to re-look at the terms and negotiations surrounding the ECRL project, which the Mahathir government suspended before it renegotiated the deal with China.
A report from a research house says the East Coast Rail Link is a catalyst for growth and will cost RM80.9 billion and will boost the country’s economic growth by 2.7%.
The report says major revisions made on the original alignment, which will see part of the southern portion re-routed to Negeri Sembilan and avoiding the Titiwangsa Range will provide gross savings of approximately RM8b-RM10b to the government.
The ECRL was restored at lower cost by the Pakatan Harapan government, with a supplementary agreement signed between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) and China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC).
It has been confirmed that ECRL will proceed at a lower cost of RM44 billion compared with its original cost of RM65.5 billion agreed by Najib.
But Anwar now says the question of 1MDB coverup was enough to reconsider the project.
“This was considered during the period of negotiations. We were quite aware but we had no evidence.
“Now, we have evidence. We need to re-look into the whole discussion, terms and negotiations,” he said to the media in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday Sept, 5.
The revelations that a number of projects were mooted by Najib’s administration to cover the 1MDB debts was made during a testimony given at the High Court by an ex-aide of Najib, Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin.
He is said to be the ex-special officer to Najib Razak, and he testified in an ongoing 1MDB trial in Kuala Lumpur.
Besides the ECRL project, Amhari said the Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP) and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP) were also proposed to save 1MDB.
Both projects have now been terminated by the Pakatan regime.
Amhari said the bailing out of Najib and 1MDB was the gist of a document he received entitled “Action Point: China-Malaysia” via email following his trip to China.
He said the document was either received from Low Taek Jho, more commonly known as Jho Low, through email or received by hand from one Terence Geh who is one of the key figures wanted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over the 1MDB scandal.-/TISG