MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, November 30, 2023

No misfeasance in public office in HSR’s termination, court told


On Jan 1, 2021, Malaysia and Singapore announced the termination of the 350km high-speed rail project. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government and four others did not commit any misfeasance in public office in suspending and then terminating the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, the High Court here was told today.

Senior federal counsel Donald Joseph Franklin said the defendants, who include former prime ministers Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin, exercised their authority and responsibility honestly, professionally and in good faith without having any personal interests.

“At all material times, the defendants acted reasonably and properly based on the facts and in accordance with the law in carrying out their duties, responsibilities and obligations.

“The defendants’ decision is a policy decision of the government after taking into account expert views, negotiations between the parties, national interests and cost implications,” he told the court.

The government, Mahathir, Muhyiddin, former economy minister Mustapa Mohamed and former transport minister Wee Ka Siong are seeking to quash a suit filed by a member of the public, Hatta Sanuri, over the cancellation of the HSR.

On Dec 30 last year, Hatta filed the suit for himself and on behalf of the more than 32 million Malaysians allegedly affected by the defendants’ decision.

Franklin contended that the defendants’ decision-making process was based on wider considerations of experts’ opinion, national interests, the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Singapore, and cost implications.

“Therefore, it is submitted that the court has no constitutional role or institutional competence to decide on the decision-making process of the executive body,” he said, adding that the plaintiff also had no locus standi to bring the legal action before the court.

According to the counsel, the plaintiff failed to show that he had a real interest in the subject matter or suffered any material loss from the defendants’ suspension and termination of the HSR project.

Hatta’s lawyer, Mohaji Selamat, argued that the defendants had been negligent and abused their public positions when deciding to suspend the project.

Judicial commissioner Roz Mawar Rozain questioned Hatta’s claim, saying it lacked details to support the allegation of abuse of public office by the defendants. She also asked the plaintiff to provide specific details regarding the claim.

Mohaji said economists had indicated that the project would benefit the country, while Putrajaya would incur losses because it would have to compensate the Singaporean government after cancelling the project.

“The defendants’ failure to explain to the public why the HSR project was cancelled has caused confusion and resulted in losses for the plaintiff and other taxpayers. There is an element of abuse of public office,” said the lawyer.

The court then fixed Dec 15 for a decision.

Hatta is seeking a court order to declare the cancellation of the project null and void, as well as for the defendants to pay RM1 million in compensation to him and all Malaysians for wrongfully and negligently cancelling the HSR project.

On Jan 1, 2021, Malaysia and Singapore announced the termination of the 350km HSR project as the two countries had failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia before the project’s agreement expired on Dec 31, 2020.

Accordingly, Malaysia paid S$102.8 million (RM320.27 million then) in compensation to Singapore for costs incurred for the development of the HSR and the extension of the project’s suspension. - FMT

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