KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 2018 : The cancellation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project should have been made by the Cabinet prior to its announcement, as a matter of good governance, said the Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet).
The think tank said while it supported the new government’s efforts to review potentially wasteful projects and lopsided deals, such decisions should have followed due process.
“If decision on a RM110 billion mega project can be made without stringent due process, we are worried that this may set a bad precedent in deciding other government projects.
“Such decision undermines institutional integrity which should have never been compromised for political expediency,” said Cenbet Co-President Gan Ping Sieu in a statement today.
Based on news reports, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s May 28 announcement to call off the project was made after chairing his party’s supreme council meeting and not in his capacity as Prime Minister announcing a Cabinet decision.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke was also reportedly said that the matter was not discussed in a Cabinet meeting prior to the Prime Minister’s May 28 announcement that the project would be shelved.
“Rightfully, cancelling a project of such magnitude, involving transnational interests, ought to have gone through a more structured decision-making process. This includes preparing a Cabinet paper and getting feedback from all relevant agencies and state governments,” explained Gan.
He pointed out that the Federal Constitution was clear that the Cabinet is the highest Executive body and the manner in which the announcement was made run counter to the spirit of accountability and transparency pledged by the new federal government.
“The eventual May 30 Cabinet decision can be perceived as an afterthought and clearly without going through sufficient consultation,” said Gan.
He added that institutional decision-making process was an integral part of good governance, which Cenbet promotes.
“All major national decisions must be made by the Cabinet after due process and consultation to prevent abuse of power and leakages,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir has denied that he had pre-empted the Cabinet when he announced the cancellation of the HSR project.
He said the issue had been a part of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto and had been used in the campaign for the general election on May 9.
“No. That was decided by the party from the very beginning. We campaigned on that issue and I’m not going to go away from the decision of the party simply because I can’t form a Cabinet soon enough,” he said at a press conference after having chaired a meeting of the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council here today.
On May 28, Dr Mahathir confirmed that Malaysia would scrap the project and would most likely have to pay compensation of up to RM500 million to Singapore.
The HSR, planned to run over 335 kilometres and involving four states, would have connected Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. The project was scheduled for completion in 2026. – Bernama