ECRL a done deal, Malaysia’s focus now on maximising benefit, says transport minister

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Transport Minister Anthony Loke speaks at the launch of the Malaysia World Maritime Week 2019 in Kuala Lumpur September 10, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 — Negotiations concerning the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) are over, Anthony Loke said today amid calls for a review after the ambitious project was described as a bailout for the debt-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in court.

The transport minister added that the focus now should be directed towards ways all involved states can benefit from the project.

“As we have said, the whole ECRL, in terms of the costs, has been cut down and the commitment is there. 

“The agreement was signed, and I think that the whole approach is how to maximise ECRL to bring benefit for all the states involved,” he told reporters after launching the World Maritime Week 2019 National Celebrations at the KL Convention Centre here.

Loke was asked to respond to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s call for the ECRL to be reviewed after it was revealed at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial in the High Court that the China-backed infrastructure project had been proposed as a bailout plan for 1MDB.

Loke later admitted he was not fully aware of the comment made by Anwar, but reiterated that a review of the project had been conducted when Pakatan Harapan took over as government last year and changes had been made.

“I have no knowledge about what Anwar has said about that, but we have already relooked and reviewed the ECRL,” he said.

The revelation of the infrastructure projects being mooted as 1MDB bailouts was made by Najib’s former special officer Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin who was the eighth prosecution witness in the 1MDB trial.

Ahmari also testified that the Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP) and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP) — both of which have since been terminated — were also originally mooted as part of the bailout plans. 

Following the explosive testimony, Anwar called for renegotiations into the ECRL project last week, even though Malaysia signed a new revised deal with China that revived the coast-to-coast project.

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