By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN
Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has denied the existence of an official letter — which was circulated on social media platforms — stating the cancellation of the RM81 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
“Anybody can cut and paste the government’s letterhead. That is not the official letter,” he told reporters after opening the Federal Statutory Bodies Executive Programme in Putrajaya yesterday.
The letter, appearing to don a federal government letterhead and signed by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng on Jan 18 to Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), was circulated on social media platforms yesterday.
Among those who shared the letter was former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.
The letter, which informed MRL of the decision to cancel the ECRL, added fuel to the varying statements made last weekend by Lim and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali over the Cabinet’s decision whether or not the contentious ECRL project was cancelled.
In the unverified letter, MRL was also ordered to inform the decision to the project’s main contractor China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) — a Chinese state firm — and financier EXIM Bank China.
Dr Mahathir said an official statement on the future of the ECRL will be issued by Lim.
In stressing this, Dr Mahathir called on Malaysians to be patient as Lim would announce the government’s official stand on the matter. The PM, however, did not provide a timeline for the announcement.
“Has Lim issued a statement? No. You wait, be patientlah. Sometimes people make mistakes.
“You have to understand that this is a new government. The number of mistakes that we make is not that many, but people notice very much because this is a new government.
“We will wait for Lim to issue a statement on the ECRL,” said Dr Mahathir.
Lim had earlier said an announcement on the status of the ECRL project will be made “as planned by the Cabinet” this week.
He said all parties should exercise caution when commenting on the issue as it involves a contract with CCCC. “This involves contracts and other matters, so let us wait for the written statement.”
On Saturday, Azmin had announced that the Cabinet has decided to terminate the ECRL project due to high cost involved in developing the rail link.
He said if the government continues to pursue the project, it will not be able to pay the RM500 million annual interest imposed by the financiers.
The 88km single-track project was expected to be completed in 2024 at a final cost of RM81 billion.
On another development, Dr Mahathir said Pakatan Harapan’s loss in the recent Cameron Highlands parliamentary by-election was not surprising given that Barisan Nasional (BN) still has a stronghold in rural areas.
“This winning by them (BN) is not surprising. This is a rural area and they are always strong in rural areas and they played racial issues. It is too bad, but this is the decision of the people and we accept,” he said.