Dr M to Ismail Sabri: ECRL cost query should have been posed when BN drafted contract

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 20): Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told the Parliament today that Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob raised a rhetorical question on the cost of Malaysia's suspended East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, because such query should have been posed when the former government under Barisan Nasional (BN) was still formulating the contract.

Dr Mahathir said: "(Parliament) Speaker (Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof), I am impressed with the wisdom of the questioning party just now. The issue is why they didn't make such query in the past. When the agreement was being drafted, why they didn't ask how much was the cost of the consultancy fee. How much would be incurred for land acquisition and others? I believe when these issues are being raised to certain parties, definitely these parties will cancel this project."

"But it is too late now, we are bound by this unfair agreement, and we were being told that this agreement is worse than what we had expected, as it was entered without taking into account of various cost like land acquisition or consultancy fee. Nevertheless, I would like to thank you (Ismail Sabri), we will take note of these matters that you raised [in the ECRL agreement]," Dr Mahathir said.

Ismail Sabri (BN-Bera) had earlier today asked Dr Mahathir to reveal the cost that the Pakatan Harapan government has to incur after suspending the project in July last year.

Ismail Sabri said: "Although ECRL has been suspended, but I believe there are many other costs being incurred currently, such as land acquisition costs and some initial cost like consultancy fee. My question is what is the amount of cost being borne by the government so far. If there is a cancellation of the project, what is the estimated compensation that would be claimed by the contractor?"

Work on the ECRL has been suspended since July 2018. Reuters reported then that China Communications Construction Co Ltd confirmed that it suspended all work on the project as Malaysia sought to renegotiate the terms of the deal with China.

It was reported that China Communications Construction said on July 5, 2018 it halted all work at the request of project owner Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd.