KUALA LUMPUR: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will continue as planned unless the company involved in the project can negotiate with China, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Prime Minister said that he is willing to follow if the company can renegotiate the deal and suspend the project.
"The company has to conduct negotiations. If they are willing to negotiate with the Chinese and tell me that they can suspend the project, I will follow them," said Dr Mahathir.
He was asked to respond to a statement by former Council of Eminent Persons' and economist Professor Jomo Kwame Sundram, who had called for the government to re-examine the ECRL project once again, after a witness in the 1MDB trial testified in court that the project was a possible bail-out.
Jomo had said the Federal Government must not be complicit in continuing to cover up what the previous government was trying to do with public funds.
During the 1MDB trial earlier this month, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, while reading his witness statement, told the court that the ECRL was among several mega-projects that were meant to bail out the sovereign wealth fund.
"Datuk Amhari's court testimony under oath clearly suggests considerable abuse in how the ECRL, the gas pipelines and other projects were conceived, approved and financed.
"The MACC should follow up with further investigations and advise the government accordingly.
"In the meantime, these projects should be suspended if they are not already cancelled.
"The amount of government-guaranteed loans grew much faster under the old regime than government debt, but the government will still be liable especially as the project will never pay for itself and, now we know, was never intended to do so," Jomo said to The Star on Friday (Sept 20).
In response, Dr Mahathir said that Jomo is entitled to his opinion but that the government stands by what the Chinese government stated.
"That are his (Jomo's) thoughts, but the Chinese government has not told us anything.
"It may have a contract to construct it and as you know, we have reduced the scope and the cost," said Dr Mahathir.
He also said that it is up to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate the ECRL project.
"That's for them to investigate, we don't ask them (the MACC) to do anything," said Dr Mahathir.
He said this to the media after an event officiating the Heritage and National Culture Charter at an event at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, co-organised by Albukhary Foundation and Budi Foundation here on Friday.
The ECRL, which originally had a price tag of RM65.5bil, was cancelled when the Pakatan Harapan government came into power, only to be resumed on April 12 this year at a lower cost of RM44bil.