Leiking hopes China’s Belt and Road forum will yield projects for east Malaysia

Darell Leiking speaks during the 'Malaysia: A New Dawn' economic forum in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Darell Leiking speaks during the 'Malaysia: A New Dawn' economic forum in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 — International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking is hoping the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRFIC) in China this month will bear development opportunities for Sabah and Sarawak.

Leiking said that while the successful renegotiation of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) was good for the country, he hoped that a similar project will also come to the east Malaysian states.

“Who knows, after BRFIC, maybe Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad will hint to the Chinese counterparts and say, ‘Don’t forget about the people in Sabah and Sarawak’ while they are doing the ECRL and Bandar Tun Razak (sic),” he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini in a group interview last week.

“Bandar Tun Razak” is believed to be in reference to the Bandar Malaysia development, which Dr Mahathir announced would be revived last Friday.

Leiking said he always kept Sabah in mind, but that his duties were to the whole country, and not just his home state.

“So, when we do our trade missions, I never think as a Sabahan but as a minister. But I know I am a Sabahan, that is the challenge for me,” he said.

The BRFIC that begins this Thursday is meant to promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to boost trade by investing in roads, rail lines and sea routes in other countries.

Dr Mahathir recently announced the resumption of the ECRL project and said its cost has been reduced to RM68.7 million per kilometre from RM95.5 million a kilometre as per the earlier agreement.

Under a new agreement between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd, the total cost of the project was slashed by RM21.5 billion to RM44 billion.

According to Leiking, this showed that the Pakatan Harapan government was not against the BRI, or the ECRL, but abuses of the initiative by “some people.”

The Penampang MP said he had high hopes for the Sabah pipeline project, but that it had to be cancelled due to abuses.

Aside from the ECRL, China had also backed gas pipeline projects in Sabah and Melaka but the projects were scrapped by the current government after it found that RM8.3 billion — 88 per cent of the construction cost — was paid out for the two projects, despite just 13 per cent of works being completed.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former treasurer secretary-general Tan Sri Irwan Serigar Abdullah have been charged with criminal breach of trust in relation to the project.

“When there are abuses, where we can no longer save it, we may have to start thinking of alternate projects that will help the power grids in Sabah,” he was quoted as saying by the portal.

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