M’sia continues dragging feet on HSR project; yet to fix official meeting date
It's in everyone's interest, Malaysia's included, to settle this quickly.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) has clarified that Malaysia has yet to fix a date for discussions regarding the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project.
The ministry’s statement came right after Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali told the media that a bilateral meeting to discuss the project is likely to take place in early August 2018.
Originally proposed by Malaysia in 2013
The HSR was originally proposed by Malaysia in 2013, under then Prime Minister Najib Razak.
However, Malaysia has been dragging her feet and sending mixed signals about the HSR project ever since new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir took over.
During and after his election campaign, Mahathir had announced to the media that his government would be scrapping the costly infrastructural project.
Scrapping costly infrastructural projects was one of the campaign promises made by the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Mahathir. According to the latter, the HSR project is too costly for the Malaysian government which currently faces RM1 trillion in debt and liabilities.
A timeline of hot and cold responses
To give you a better perspective of Malaysia’s fudging over the HSR issue, here’s a timeline of events relating to the HSR:
June 1: In response to Mahathir’s public announcements, Singapore sends a note via diplomatic channels requesting that Malaysia provide her official stance on the project and have discussions, if required, conducted by July 31.
July 9: Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan reveals that Singapore is waiting for Malaysia’s official confirmation on the fate of the HSR. He also reveals that the costs incurred by the HSR project has exceeded S$250 million.
July 10: In response to Khaw’s Parliament statements, Mahathir says, “We have not given them (Singapore) full notice yet but they know what we want to do”.
July 18: Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali says the HSR is not a “terrible project” and “any infrastructural project will benefit both Malaysia and Singapore”.
July 19: Mahathir changes tone, says HSR “will have to be deferred”. Singapore’s MOT also confirmed that the Malaysian government has informed Singapore that it would confirm the meeting date by end July.
July 23: Azmin informs MOT that Malaysia was studying the HSR and “will commence discussions with Singapore soon”.
July 31: Malaysia misses the July 31 deadline; Azmin insists the deadline was just a “suggestion” by Singapore and says that the meeting will take place soon, “hopefully… in early August”. This was despite MOT saying that it was the Malaysian government which earlier informed Singapore that it would confirm the meeting date by end July.
August 1: Singapore’s MOT clarifies that Malaysia has yet to propose a meeting date to discuss the HSR, and that Singapore welcomes “Malaysia’s suggestion to commence discussions”.
Top image is an artist impression of the Bandar Malaysia HSR station in KL.