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Friday, September 28, 2018

‘DAIM & I TALK QUITE OFTEN’: GUAN ENG REVEALS DR MAHATHIR HAD ALREADY ASKED DAIM TO NEGOTIATE WITH CHINA ON ECRL ‘EVEN BEFORE I WAS SWORN IN AS FINANCE MINISTER’

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng does not see how the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project can continue without the Selangor state government’s objections being addressed.
“Unless we can overcome the objections by the Selangor government, I don’t see how this project can proceed.
“Unless the Chinese company makes us an offer we cannot refuse. Then it is different,” Lim said in an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini at his office in Putrajaya recently.
He was referring to Selangor’s strong objection to the ECRL project specifically its rail link from the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) in Gombak to Port Klang.
This is because the link cuts across the 16km-long Klang Gates Quartz Ridge which the Selangor government is lobbying to be gazetted as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The ridge is the longest of its kind in the world. If the Gombak-Port Klang rail link is allowed to go ahead, the Unesco application would fail as natural heritage sites cannot include new infrastructure works that damage the site.
On the one hand, Lim said it would be difficult to continue the ECRL project without the Gombak-Port Klang link but on the other, they cannot just dismiss out of hand the objections from a state government.
As such, he said, the federal government was still keeping “all options on the table” though he would prefer if a decision was made on the ECRL before he presents the 2019 Budget in November.
“I am not setting any deadline (for a decision on the ECRL), just that preferably it is made before the Budget so we can provide more credibility and certainty,” he said.
No issues with Daim
Lim noted that he has not been very involved in the negotiations with the Chinese ECRL companies as that is being handled by Daim Zainuddin who was entrusted the delicate task by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Responding to criticisms that it should be him as the finance minister handling these negotiations, Lim said that Mahathir had already asked Daim before he (Lim) was sworn in as finance minister.
“It is only natural that he (Daim) continues with it. I have no issues with this, we talk quite often. I also feel that too many cooks will spoil the broth so I’ll just leave it to him to handle.
“(This is) so there is a clear, single line of negotiation so (the Chinese companies) will know who they should be talking to,” Lim explained.
The 688km ECRL project is currently suspended pending a final decision on its fate.
Mahathir had previously led a delegation to China to engage top Chinese leaders and sought Beijing’s “understanding” that Malaysia could not afford some of the projects, including the ECRL, initiated by his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.
“I said if we can, we would like to cancel it. If we cannot, we would like to defer and look towards other ways of solving our financial problems,” Mahathir had told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview.
Before Mahathir’s visit to China, Daim had also made a visit to China to hold negotiations with the Chinese companies.
– M’kini

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