KUALA LUMPUR: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is set to leave a trail of damage if it is cancelled, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
The MCA president said the damage will affect several areas - from loss of jobs and harm to diplomatic ties - to the country's economy and the reputation of Malaysia.
China, he noted, is Malaysia's largest trading partner since 2009, with bilateral trade figures reaching US$100bil.
He said palm oil exports to China will be hit aside from exports such as bird's nest, durian and white coffee.
Topping the list of potential sufferers are the country's 650,000 oil palm smallholders who have been plagued by low palm oil prices and low demand for the commodity.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet Ministers on Tuesday (Jan 29), Dr Wee said, "I earnestly hope the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing this (ECRL) project."
The 688km ECRL linking four states - Selangor, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan- is under construction and set for completion in 2024.
"The rail link is 20% completed, with several tens of billions paid to the contractor.
"On top of that, Malaysia will be penalised for cancelling the RM30bil loan from the EXIM Bank of China.
"We will have to repay the loan and compensation within a short period of time," he said.
Dr Wee, a civil engineer, said based on his experience in administering engineering projects, any breach of contract would result in a hefty penalty.
"The compensation for cancelling ECRL could reach RM20bil," he said.
Here is Dr Wee's letter in full:
An open letter to YAB Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers
The cancellation of the ECRL project and the bickering between two Cabinet ministers over the issue has become the talk of the town.
I foresee this issue to be a hot topic in the Cabinet meeting this Wednesday (Jan 30).
Whether the cancellation of ECRL was discussed in previous Cabinet meetings or not, I earnestly hope the Cabinet can explore the effects of axing this project.
Take a moment to consider factors such as the friendship between the people of both countries, jobs and economy, diplomatic ties and the reputation of Malaysia.
On the bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, I can safely say that putting a stop to the ECRL project will harm the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China.