Daim: Give space for govt to decide on ECRL

Bilateral is a very serious issue. We have to do it quietly via diplomacy

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The federal government should not be pressured to take hasty decision on the fate of the RM81 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, due to its sensitive nature.

Chairman of the now-disbanded Council of Eminent Persons Tun Daim Zainuddin has advised the public not to pressure the government on any bilateral issues, which involve sensitivity of other countries.

“When we deal with another country, you cannot talk to the press because it is very sensitive. We have to sit down and do everything quietly. The problem is the press keeps asking and they have to answer.

“They cannot do that. Bilateral is a very serious issue. We have to do it quietly via diplomacy,” Daim told reporters after a luncheon talk at Universiti Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam, Selangor, yesterday.

However, he confirmed that a decision was reached on the contentious ECRL in the last Cabinet meeting.

“There was a decision made, whether to announce or not that is another matter. But when you pressure them, you ask them questions about it and they slip, a small mistake becomes big,” he said.

The federal administration was caught off guard recently after conflicting statements were given on the status of the ECRL, which was suspended in July last year.

The rail project was developed by Chinese state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and financed by Chinese banks.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said if the project were to be cancelled, the compensation would be significantly lower than the debt the government had to pay for the next 30 years upon continuation.

Some 15% of the project was completed when the contract was suspended nearly six months ago.

Media reports emerged that the CCCC had engaged in negotiations with the Malaysian government, to bring down the cost to RM40 billion and increase local participation to up to 50%, from the current 30%.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is expected to issue a statement on the future of the ECRL.

Meanwhile, Daim said it is time for the new government to step up to the plate, put their politics aside and deliver their promises to the rakyat, as it has been eight months since Pakatan Harapan’s shocking win in the last polls.

“They could do more. The learning process is over. Now it is a matter of implementation and the rakyat expects a lot. They must honour their promises, and it can be done provided there is unity. They should get down and work together for the rakyat and the country.

“The rakyat is watching. You have made so many promises, please deliver them. I think in the long run, it can be done   but they must sit down and work together as a team,” he stressed.