Mahathir: We’ll reveal details of ECRL contract

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says his government has revealed a lot about the ECRL project. (Bernama pic)

BEIJING: The federal government is to reveal details of the contract to carry out the East Coast Rail Link project, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

Speaking to the press at the end of his five-day visit to China, Mahathir said: “Yes we will reveal to the public, but we have to understand the sensitivities of the Chinese (government). We don’t want to say anything that might hurt their feelings. We have revealed a lot already.”

He said the negotiations by the previous Barisan Nasional government on the construction of the ECRL had not been transparent and were conducted without any detailed study.

“It was the former prime minister (Najib Razak) who conducted the negotiations, there was no due diligence, no feasibility study,” he told a Malaysian media conference, Bernama reported.

The new government of Pakatan Harapan has decided to revive the ECRL project, connecting the east coast states to Port Klang, following negotiations by Daim Zainuddin, the special envoy of the prime minister, who said the construction cost had been reduced by 32.8%, 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.

Mahathir was here to attend a summit of 37 world leaders for discussions on the Belt and Road Initiative initiated by China.

The prime minister was also asked about Daim’s statement during a recent interview that negotiations were conducted on behalf of the previous government 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, according to Bernama.

During the interview with BNC, Daim also questioned whether the personal emissary had negotiated directly with China and China Communications Construction Company Ltd , 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.