Fate of ECRL close to being finalised, says Daim

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 31 Mar 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: The fate of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is close to being finalised with just some minor details to be sorted out.

Tun Daim Zainuddin, who will lead a delegation from Malaysia to China to mend ties with the world’s second largest economy and Malaysia’s largest trading partner, says the team from China has been working with Malaysian officials for some time on the project and all that is left are some small issues to be ironed out.

“We are almost there. Just need to tighten the screws here and there,” he says.

Daim says the Chinese companies were not in the wrong over the contract but it was an uphill task to convince them (to renegotiate).

“They are very understanding. It is how you approach them and they understand our problem.

“So let’s sit down and talk,” he says.

The ECRL project has been halted since July 3 last year. The 688km rail link, if built, will connect Port Klang in Selangor with Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan, and will be constructed in two phases.

Daim says he has been in touch with the relevant parties in China and both countries have reached a decision to finalise the agreement.

Whether a final reworked agreement can be reached, Daim says: “We say Insya-Allah. But men have to work.”

Daim will brief Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of the developments over the ECRL and will head to China next month. It is an important trip so that any past friction between both countries could be smoothened out given the long historical ties both countries have shared.

“That is the objective. We have been friends for a long time and trading for centuries.

“We know them and have a long history of ties. We are the first country in Asean to establish relations with China.

“Those days they were poor and needed our help. But now, they are the second largest economy and soon will be the first. Like it or not, they are there,” he says.

Mending ties that seem to have been fractured is important as after Pakatan Harapan took power, contracts with Chinese companies, particularly the ECRL, were jettisoned. Negotiations have continued to resolve the impasse and both countries seem to have mended their differences and are back on the footing they had in the past.

Dr Mahathir said last week that Daim’s role as chief negotiator over the ECRL was important based on his expertise and capabilities.

He told Parliament that the government appointed Daim as an adviser to the Prime Minister to lead the negotiation process with China to ensure a win-win solution could be obtained.

“He was chosen because of certain capabilities. Sometimes when we are negotiating, we need a person who will be accepted by the other party.

“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 was best suited and capable to discuss with China,” he said.

Daim also says the issues surrounding water supply need urgent attention to make sure people and industries have enough supply of clean water.

He says the situation in Johor and Kedah is acute and there is little or no reserves in states such as Selangor.

“My own view is that water, electricity and telecommunications are strategic industries or infrastructure, and that is where Khazanah Nasional must come in.

“It costs a lot of money and has to benefit everybody,” he says.

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