ECRL not the only way to create job opportunities, says minister

The East Coast Rail Link has been cancelled as the government says it is too costly. (Bernama pic)

TUMPAT: Rural Development Minister Rina Harun has dismissed concerns that the cancellation of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project will affect economic activity and job opportunities in east coast states.

“Of course, the ECRL project would have created many job opportunities but there are so many other ways to do so.

“We don’t need to depend solely on the project,” she told reporters at Kampung Geting here yesterday.

Rina Harun.

The government said the project would be cancelled as it was found to be too costly. The 688km ECRL route would have linked Port Klang in Selangor to the east coast through Kuantan, Pahang, Terengganu and Pengkalan Kubor, Kelantan.

In Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, former prime minister Najib Razak called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the decision to cancel the ECRL and Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline projects to determine if there was any wrongdoing involved.

He said the people deserved to know if the decision was made based on reasonable and solid grounds, and not out of resentment towards the previous Barisan Nasional administration or the Chinese government for agreeing to the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government’s demands.

“Until all those documents are disclosed, I am disappointed and sad for the people in the east coast states of the peninsula for losing the potential development in their states and the opportunity to improve their economic status to be on par with the people in the west coast,” he said in a Facebook post.

“The contracts concerned had exit clauses.

“It was not like the IPP (independent power producer) concession agreements or the toll agreement signed during Mahathir’s (Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad) era where, until now, the PH government cannot fulfil its promise to abolish tolls,” he added.

In Kuantan, Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail called on the government to reconsider its decision as it could cause many local workers to lose their jobs.

He said cancelling the ECRL project would only cause the three states to suffer losses as initial work had already begun.

“In Pahang alone, the initial work is 13% to 14% in progress. In fact, at several sites such as in Genting Highlands and Bentong, the digging of the ECRL tunnel has also begun.

“So on behalf of the state government and those affected by the cancellation of the project, especially the workers who might lose their jobs, I call on the federal government to reconsider the decision,” he said in a statement yesterday.