KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today Malaysia will hold steadfast to its international agreements with China or any other countries, so long as it is principled and based on the rule of law.
He said when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his delegation recently attended the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in Beijing last month, they were commonly asked by the other delegates as to how they renegotiated the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project.
“You see when we attended the BRI conference recently, one of the popular comments from delegates is, they asked us how do we renegotiate ECRL.
“I think it is really up to China and how they look at it, but it is not a secret that countries like Sri Lanka or other countries who suffer from certain agreements [would enquire],” Saifuddin said during an interview on BFM 89.9's Breakfast Grille session.
He admitted that given Malaysia's current situation, the Pakatan Harapan government would probably not have included ECRL as something it wanted to do, since it did not sign the agreement with Beijing in the first place.
“But there it is, so there are no two ways about it. Diplomatically we want to be friendly with China, since they are very big and we are a smaller country.
“But you have to give it to Tun Dr Mahathir. When we decided we must renegotiate, he told the president and premier of China very firmly and straight to their faces about the need to do so, even as we wanted to have stronger ties with them,” Saifuddin said.
In April, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd had signed a supplementary agreement that will pave the way for the resumption of the China-backed project.
The construction cost for Phases 1 and 2 of the ECRL has now been now reduced to RM44 billion, a reduction of RM21.5 billion from its original cost of RM65.5 billion.
Dr Mahathir’s office announced that the reduced construction cost for the ECRL project was achieved via a comprehensive value engineering exercise and a new southern alignment.