Ex-works minister claims Sarawak ‘arm-twisted’ over new Pan Borneo Highway deal

Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said the Sarawak government had no choice but to agree with Putrajaya into terminating the contract of the project delivery partner for state portion of the Pan Borneo Highway. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali
Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said the Sarawak government had no choice but to agree with Putrajaya into terminating the contract of the project delivery partner for state portion of the Pan Borneo Highway. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

KUCHING, Feb 9 — The Sarawak government had no choice but to agree with Putrajaya into terminating the contract of the project delivery partner (PDP) for state portion of the Pan Borneo Highway, Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof alleged today.

The former works minister from senior vice-president of the Sarawak’s coalition anchor Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu has been embroiled in a row with the federal ruling Pakatan Harapan over the ambitious road project to link Malaysia’s two easternmost states since the termination was announced last week.

Fadillah claimed Sarawak was asked to choose between signing the termination agreement, and not receiving any of the pre-agreed funding for the project to continue.

“This is the same situation where Sarawak was arm-twisted to settle a RM1 billion advance loan payment in stages to the federal government before the project to repair dilapidated schools in the state can begin, despite the RM1 billion amount already approved in the Budget 2018 under the previous Barisan Nasional federal government,” the Petrajaya MP claimed.

He was responding to Sarawak PH chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s statement yesterday that the state government had agreed to the termination of the contract between highway’s PDP Lebuhraya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd and the federal government.

Chong, who is also the federal deputy minister of domestic trade and consumer affairs, was responding to Fadillah’s first claim that the cancellation of the PDP model and the changes as announced by federal Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng now put Sarawak’s highway project at  real risk of being delayed from its original targeted date of end 2021 besides likely raising its cost from the estimated RM15.13 billion.

According to Chong, the termination of the PDP agreement would reduce the costs of implementation of the whole Pan Borneo Highway project in Sarawak from an estimated RM21.9 billion to RM18.8 billion, a saving of RM3.1 billion for the federal government.

He had said the RM3.1 billion savings would then be channelled back to Sarawak for the other projects.

Ticking Chong off today, Fadillah said the federal deputy minister should not get his facts confused.

“It is true that the secretary of the Sarawak government signed with the federal government to terminate the PDP agreement for the Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway project.

“Chong should not confuse this situation with his DAP secretary-general Lim’s misleading statement that the cancellation of the PDP contract will lead to an imaginary savings of RM3.1 billion cost from RM21.9 bilion to RM18.8 billion.

“As confirmed by federal Works Minister Baru Bian in Parliament on March 26, 2019, the original targeted cost of the project was RM16.48 billion.

“Subsequent to that, the PDP was able to further reduce that cost to RM15.13 billion via cost optimisation and efficiency savings while still maintaining the original project completion date of end 2021.

“Until its cancellation, there has never been any accusation that the PDP was late in its project delivery or had gone above budget.

“So how can the newly announced cost of RM18.8 billion be considered a reduction of RM3.1 billion from the previous cost of RM15.13 billion?” Fadillah asked.

He claimed that on the contrary, the project cost will likely see an increase of RM3.67 billion instead.

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