HSR cancellation was coalition policy from the start, says Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad denied yesterday that he pre-empted the Cabinet when announcing the cancellation of the High-Speed Rail (HSR) line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

"No, that was decided by the party from the very beginning," Tun Dr Mahathir told a news conference when asked if he had pre-empted the other Cabinet ministers, pointing out that his Pakatan Harapan coalition had campaigned on the issue during the general elections last month.

"We campaigned on that issue. I am not going to go away from the decision of the party simply because I could not form the Cabinet soon enough," he said.

He also assured investors that Malaysia would remain business-friendly and treat all firms fairly.

"We cannot be afraid of inconsistencies because we have been in the government for only three weeks. So, you can't assess us as being inconsistent. We want to be consistent. We will be very business-friendly," he said, when asked what the government would do to protect the interests of foreign investors.

"Local or foreign, all will be treated in the same way. If they have any problems, we will attend to those problems," he said, adding that the law would protect the rights of investors.

He vowed to correct any mistakes made by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

"We can't continue with their mistakes. It will be corrected, but we will go according to the agreement or the contract that has been given," he said.

"Only when something wrong is done with the contract, then we will take action."

After taking power, Dr Mahathir announced the cancellation of several mega projects, including the HSR, and introduced a slew of spending cuts as part of efforts to reduce the national debt of RM1 trillion (S$335 billion).

The Mahathir administration has said that the cost of building the HSR, at RM110 billion, was prohibitive considering Malaysia's current financial standing, while former prime minister Najib Razak claimed it would have cost only RM72 billion, and that its economic benefits would far outweigh the estimated price tag.

Hazlin Hassan

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'HSR cancellation was coalition policy from the start, says Mahathir'. Print Edition | Subscribe