KUALA LUMPUR: The appointment of Tun Daim Zainuddin to head negotiations with China over the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project was based on his expertise and capabilities, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Prime Minister said the government had appointed Daim to lead the negotiation process with China to ensure a win-win solution.
“He was chosen because of certain of his capabilities. Sometimes when we are negotiating, we need a person who will be accepted by the other parties. We face certain challenges in choosing the best person to carry out the negotiations.
“That is why we chose someone outside (the government) after making the evaluation as to who is the best suited and capable to discuss this with China,” he said in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kuala Krau) during Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday (March 20).
Ismail had asked the government to explain its decision to appoint Daim instead of the Finance Minister in its bid to negotiate with China over the ECRL project.
The Prime Minister said if the negotiation was successful, the government may proceed with the mega project at a more suitable scale that would benefit the people and without burdening the country's financial health.
“The outcome of the negotiations will be revealed once they are finalised in a short period of time,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the government understands that the project can spur more development, especially in the east coast states, but alleged that the previous administration had failed to follow due process and procedures.
“We found that the previous government decided not to call for an open tender but instead had directly awarded it to a company supposedly based on a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement,” he said.
The RM81bil ECRL project was approved by the Cabinet under former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in October 2016.
The construction was to be handled by China Communication Constructions Company Ltd (CCCC), while the financing was to be provided by Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank of China).
Malaysia would be able to secure part of the loan from Exim Bank of China, on the condition that CCCC builds the railway.
The 688km rail link, if built, will connect Port Klang in Selangor with Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan, and will be constructed in two phases.