Muhyiddin says M'sia 'doesn't need to wait' for S'pore to resume HSR project

He also claimed that terminating the HSR project with Singapore restores Malaysia's sovereignty.

Faris Alfiq | December 20, 2021, 04:33 PM

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Malaysia "does not need to wait" for Singapore to continue with the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, the country's former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Dec. 19.

Instead, he claimed that many others would be interested in joining the project with the prospects of connecting the HSR to Thailand, China, and the Indo-China region, Malaysiakini reported.

Muhyiddin was delivering his keynote address during his party's (Bersatu) fourth annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur.

"A private consortium can be created to build the project from the south to the north of the country, funded entirely by the private sector including the cost of land acquisition," Muhyiddin added.

Mooted idea of reviving HSR with Singapore

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR project was cancelled on Jan. 1, when Muhyiddin was the prime minister of Malaysia.

Malaysia had compensated Singapore RM320 million (S$103.3 million) for the cancellation of the project.

However, when Malaysia's current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakob visited Singapore on Nov. 29, he mooted the idea of reviving the HSR project again with Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore is open to fresh proposals from Malaysia on the HSR project, and the ministries of transport from both countries will discuss the matter.

Claimed previous agreement threatened country's sovereignty

In his keynote address, Muhyiddin claimed that he decided to terminate the HSR project agreement with Singapore because he found that the previous contract signed under the Barisan Nasional's government had "biased terms", Malaysiakini reported.

He added that the terms were biased to the point of threatening Malaysia's sovereignty.

One of which was Singapore's alleged control over AssetsCo, which he claimed would have been in charge of HSR operations in Malaysia.

"With the termination of the HSR agreement with Singapore, we have restored our country's sovereignty," he claimed.

"Without Singapore's involvement, we have full control over the execution of strategic infrastructure projects in the country, and we can make decisions to protect the interests of our country without foreign interference," Muhyiddin added.

Assets Company important for both countries: Ong Ye Kung

The privately-financed Assets Company was appointed by both governments to design, finance, and maintain all rail assets and rolling stock (trains) for the HSR, and oversee the network.

It would also ensure that appropriate priority was given to cross-border HSR service in relation to Malaysia's domestic service, and be accountable to both Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore's former Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said that the Assets Company was important as it protected the interests of both countries.

Under the HSR Bilateral Agreement that was signed in 2016, the Assets Company had to be appointed through an international tender:

"Because neither country has the experience and expertise in operating a cross-border HSR, we agreed under the HSR BA to appoint a best-in-class industry player, through an open and transparent international tender, to assume the role of the Assets Company."

However, Singapore was unable to agree to a change proposed by Malaysia, which was the removal of the Assets Company, Ong said.

He added that Malaysia's proposal of doing away with the Assets Company was a "fundamental departure from the HSR Bilateral Agreement and could not be accepted".

Najib responded to Muhyiddin

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who incidentally was the one who brokered the deal with Singapore on the HSR, took to Facebook and criticised Muhyiddin's claims.

Najib shared that the distance between Singapore and Johor Bahru is 20 kilometres, and the distance between Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok is 1,400 kilometres.

"Does he not understand how to balance out the huge cost with economic returns?" Najib questioned Muhyiddin.

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Top image screenshot via Muhyiddin Yassin/Facebook