GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today “tutored” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wee Ka Siong on the much debated RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel-main roads project.
In a video of just under five minutes, Lim gave a lesson to Wee on what had transpired since the state government decided to alleviate traffic congestion and improve connectivity between the mainland and the island.
Lim noted that Wee continued to question the viability of the project just because the shareholders had changed. He said he had explained to Wee that the composition of shareholders would not affect the project as they were not the main contractors.
Lim began his ‘tutorial’ by explaining why they decided to have the undersea tunnel from Bagan Ajam on the mainland to Gurney Drive on the island.
“We insisted the project must be awarded by open tender. The state tender committee, headed by the state secretary, decided that the tender be awarded to Consortium Zenith at a cost of RM6.3 billion. The agreement was signed in October 2013 between the state government and two principal shareholders of Zenith and Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).
“We also signed an additional agreement with the main contractor China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), the largest construction company in the world with a good track record, including building the highest railway line to Tibet. BUCG was famous for building the bird’s nest stadium in Beijing,” he said, adding that they had some issues with BUCG, which was why it was left out of the contract and agreement.
The Chinese firm was taken off the project in September 2016 after it was linked to an accident on Jalan Raja Chulan, where a woman was killed after a crane hook at a construction site fell on her car.
However, Lim said this did not have an impact on the project as the main consortium, Zenith, was still there, as was the CRCC.
He also said that CRCC gave a commitment in black and white that it would render all assistance and expertise to the project to ensure its successful completion. The viability of the project, Lim said, was unaffected.
“Wee questioned Vertice investing 13.21% in Zenith. What is wrong with investors investing in Zenith. Zenith is still the shareholder of the project. There is nothing wrong for investors to put in money into Zenith.
“After all, the main contractor is CRCC. Anyone can invest. Even Wee, or Prime Minister Najib Razak can invest, but the main contractor is still the same. It is still the same.
“Please don’t try and confuse the issue. Do you understand now Wee Ka Siong?” Lim asked.
Lim also said it was clear that Wee and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders in Penang were trying to sabotage the project, and asked that they let the project continue “so that we can help the people of Penang to have better transport and connectivity, especially between the mainland and the island”.
“Of course we do not know what will happen as the main people in Zenith have been detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“We will see whether BN will succeed in sabotaging the project,” Lim said, adding the state would let the people of Penang judge the actions of the BN.
Wee had, on several occasions, questioned the role of a fashion company in the project, and had asked Lim to explain why some companies announced as shareholders were not listed in the project’s special purpose vehicle.
The RM6.3 billion infrastructure project found renewed scrutiny from the BN following a fresh probe by the MACC.
The 7.2km undersea tunnel will connect George Town’s Pangkor Road and Bagan Ajam in Butterworth. It is scheduled to begin in 2023.
Its feasibility study, often a topic of contention between BN and opposition leaders, is now at 92%. The Penang government had said the project was low priority and could take off later, after the three main roads were completed.