KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Tun Daim Zainuddin was appointed to lead Malaysia in hammering out a new deal on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) with China but the former finance minister wasn’t the country’s only negotiator.
ECRL project owner and its asset manager Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) clarified that the specially appointed envoy to the prime minister was the leader of the delegation, but that the other members which included senior government officials from the Attorney General’s Chambers, Finance Ministry and Transport ministry also participated actively in bilateral discussions.
“The local and international community were very much aware that the ECRL taskforce managed to handle the negotiation process successfully, as the outcome was highlighted in numerous reports in newspapers, news portals and TV stations both in Malaysia and abroad.
“Any individual whom has interest or concerns on the ECRL project would have kept himself abreast of all the latest development of ECRL,” MRL said in a statement in response to a critical opinion piece published online by a news columnist.
The company did not name the columnist nor the news organisation in its statement.
In its rebuttal, MRL said the savings of the RM21.5 billion for the renegotiated ECRL project was not solely due to the element of over “overpricing”, but was a win-win solution between Malaysia and China.
It said this includes the 33 per cent of the cost to RM44 billion, a balanced joint venture between ERL and China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) for operation and maintenance of the railway, and the increased local participation of Malaysian contractors in its civil works.
“MRL would like to stress that Malaysia entered into negotiations with the PRC on a cooperative basis to finds ways and means to reduce the cost of the ECRL without losing the essence of the rail network.
“For the record, both countries chose to enter the negotiations in a spirit of diplomatic goodwill, with the aim of achieving the construction of the ECRL at a lower cost.”
On the suggestion to have a new Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Assessment report, MRL said it will work on the new report in the third quarter of the year as the 640-km ECRL rail network now includes a new Southern alignment and realignment at certain areas.
While the 17.8 km long Genting Tunnel has been taken out from the project, MRL said that an approximately 7 km twin-bore tunnel to be constructed in the Jelebu — Semenyih area would help reduce loss of forest and minimise impact on wildlife.
“The tunnel together with the design of the alignment to avoid water catchment areas are among the measures taken for environmental safeguards under the Southern Alignment,” it said.
MRl added that it welcomes comments on the project, but said it “should be constructive and based on facts.”