ECRL announcement during campaign just coincidence, says Loke

Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook at the PH ceramah in Bandar Seri Sendayan.

SEREMBAN: Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook tonight said last week’s announcement on the East Coast Rail Link project likely proceeding was not made to fish for votes during the Rantau by-election campaign.

“Talks have been going on since last year,” the Seremban MP told a 1,000-strong crowd in Bandar Seri Sendayan, adding he had “nothing to do” with plans for the ECRL route to pass through Jelebu in Negeri Sembilan.

The DAP national organising secretary added that the finalised agreement announced today by Daim Zainuddin, Putrajaya’s point man in China for the ECRL, “was not because tomorrow is polling for the Rantau by-election”.

“This is a big decision that will benefit the people, all the same,” he said to applause.

“And we are confident that the rerouting (of the ECRL as part of the finalised agreement) will benefit Negeri Sembilan.”

On April 5, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had hinted that rerouting of the ECRL will include Negeri Sembilan.

Loke said the ECRL is now RM21.5 billion cheaper, a sum he likened to 50 years of the Negeri Sembilan’s yearly budget of about RM400 million.

A section of the crowd at the ceramah in Bandar Seri Sendayan.

This would never have happened if BN had remained in power, he said.

Putrajaya had said the cost was reduced from RM65.5 billion to RM44 billion following the signing of an agreement between Malaysia Rail Link and China Communications Construction Company.

After coming to power last year, PH had suspended the 688km project due to its high cost. The project is now 40km shorter and will not pass through Gombak, as earlier planned.

Loke said the rerouting through Jelebu in Negeri Sembilan “makes more sense”, despite criticism from former prime minister Najib Razak who he said “doesn’t know his geography”.

Loke also said there is likely to be an ECRL station in Negeri Sembilan, with work opportunities created for locals.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, at the ceramah, also welcomed Putrajaya’s success in reducing the cost of the ECRL project.

He questioned why BN could not do this when it was in power.

He pledged to be a better leader and honest prime minister.

Rantau goes to the polls tomorrow. Umno’s Mohamad Hasan is representing BN while PKR’s Dr Streram Sinnasamy is standing for PH. Two independents, Malar Rajaram and Mohd Nor Yassin, are also contesting the seat.