IPOH, May 27 — Perak Opposition leader Abdul Aziz Bari today questioned Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad on the proposed highway project from Gopeng to Kuala Kangsar — which bypasses the Menora Tunnel on the North-South Expressway — and the rare earth element (REE) project in Hulu Perak.

The Tebing Tinggi assemblyman said that he couldn’t understand the need for such projects that involve a huge cost.

"Maybe they (Perak government) are taking cue from Selangor in building more highways. But even in Selangor, this issue have been debated over its cost.

"And maybe there might be a need for this highway. However, the cost is too high. Based on what we know, the cost to construct the West Coast Expressway (WCE), with a stretch of 237 kilometres, is about RM5 billion, while the cost for the new highway project in Perak with a stretch of 64 kilometres is about RM5.7 billion.

"For WCE, the cost for building one kilometre is about RM21.7 million while the cost for building the new highway in Perak has reached nearly RM90 million for one kilometre,” he told reporters when met at his residence in Pengkalan Tiara here.

Aziz Bari said that the state government should give the public an opportunity to give their views and thoughts on the project before implementing it.

"But what we are seeing now, it is as though the state government has approved the project and will implement it,” he said.

"Also, we have heard people asking if the government is trying to cover the election cost with this project’s fund. Such remarks is certainly bad for the government and even in the state assembly this projects were not debated,” he added.

Meanwhile, Aziz Bari also questioned the need for the state government to carry on with the rare earth element project identified as lanthanide in Hulu Perak, despite receiving negative feedback from the Department of Environment (DoE) and environmental groups.

"Both the highway and the rare earth elements projects came out of nowhere. Who is going to bear the cost?

"And don’t say it didn’t involve the public’s money as the land, timber, soil, and other resources in the state belong to the public,” he stressed.

On May 16, Saarani said the government had received a proposal for the construction of the highway as it could reduce the number of accidents in the state.

Saarani said the state government supports the private sector project involving a 64km route from the Gopeng exit to Siputeh linked to Kuala Kangsar, which has also received the green light from the Cabinet.

Separately, on May 23, Saarani announced that a rare earth project identified as lanthanide in Hulu Perak could boost the state’s revenue.

He said the state government had received approval from the DoE through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report last week, to implement the pilot project.