“Indefinite postponement” of double tracking rail project – triumph of clean,  transparent and incorruptible governance or new development policy abandoning mega project  with fresh  focus on affordable world-class  education, health and law-and-order  systems

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaFriday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi confirmed in Tokyo yesterday that the Cabinet will meet next week to make the final decision on the “indefinite postponement” of the controversial  RM14.5 billion double tracking rail project. 

Is the “indefinite postponement” of the country’s single largest privatized infrastructure project the triumph of clean, transparent and incorruptible governance or a new development policy abandoning mega projects with a fresh  focus on affordable world-class  education, health and law-and-order systems? 

Malaysia is the 37th country to sign the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in the three-day convention-signing ceremony in Merida, Mexico which has attracted 87 signatory countries in the first two days -  with some 125 countries expected to be signatories. 

It is unfortunate and most regrettable that Malaysia missed the opportunity to make an international impact as well as provide  world leadership in clean, transparent  and incorruptible governance by announcing the cancellation of the last-minute award of the double tracking rail contract  to Malaysia Mining Corporation Bhd (MMC)-Gamuda JV on the ground that it violated Article 9 of the UN Convention Against Corruption. 

Article 9 of the UN Convention on “Public procurement and management of public finances” stipulates that states should have “appropriate systems of procurement, based on transparency, competition and objective criteria in decision-making”  to prevent corruption in invitations to tender and award of contracts in public projects. 

However, Abdullah has avoided referring to  corruption, clean and transparent governance in  the proposed “indefinite postponement” of the double tracking rail project, which can only mean that the new Prime Minister lacks  confidence of full support of the entire system of government and the ruling coalition if he embarked on an all-out war against corruption. 

Is this  why Abdullah has chosen to explain the “indefinite postponement”  on other grounds, viz: to carry out other pressing socio-economic development projects under the Eighth Malaysia Plan and to reduce the national deficit and achieve a balanced budget. 

Or has the change of course nothing to do with clean, transparent and incorruptible governance but  marked a new development policy abandoning mega projects with a fresh focus on affordable quality education, health and law-and-order systems? 

If the latter, it will invite many  questions, such as: 

  • Why the same Cabinet members have changed their minds about national development objectives  and priorities in a matter of six weeks – a credit to Abdullah as  the new Prime Minister but definitely not to all the other Cabinet Ministers.
  • Whether Abdullah is prepared to review and even cancel other multi-billion ringgit mega-projects.  Putrajaya, the new administrative capital of the country, is nothing but a white elephant.  It may be too late for Abdullah to do anything about Putrajaya although it could still be scaled down, but there are other multi-billion-ringgit mega projects that merit urgent review – such as the RM1.1 billion “crooked half-bridge” to replace Malaysia’s half of the Johore-Singapore causeway and the RM9 billion Bakun dam project. 

Is the Cabinet next Wednesday prepared to send out a clear signal of a completely new re-look at all these mega-projects of privatization  in keeping with a new focus of development priorities in the country?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman