Malaysia Suspends Construction of Major Belt and Road Rail Project

06 July, 2018, 20:55 | Author: Sheila Harris
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The Finance Ministry said yesterday it has ordered Chinese contractors building the United States dollars 20 billion East Coast Rail Link, a key venture under China's Belt and Road initiative, as well as two gas pipeline projects to stop work pending negotiations.

"This suspension shall take effect immediately and will be in force until further instruction from us", said the letter signed by MRL chief executive officer Datuk Sri Darwis Abd Razak.

In addition to the ECRL, the finance ministry yesterday confirmed that two pipeline projects awarded in 2016 to China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau, together worth $2.3bn (9.4 billion ringgits), had also been suspended, The Edge Markets reports.

"The decisions are exclusively directed toward the related contractors, relating to the provisions mentioned in the agreements, and not at any particular country", the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Malaysia has already paid CCCC $5bn toward the ECRL, although in comments this week finance minister Lim said half that could be recovered in a "worst case scenario" if the project is withdrawn.

"In Malaysia, everyone is concerned about the ECRL project, very similar to [the port project in] Sri Lanka", CCCC chairman Liu Qitao was quoted at a panel discussion at a Belt and Road Initiative summit in Hong Kong.

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Daim, an influential figure close to Mahathir, was appointed by the premier to a "Council of Eminent Persons" - a special team advising the government.

Najib was charged on Wednesday with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of power abuse in relation to RM42 million allegedly misappropriated from a former 1MDB unit.

The second-time prime minister said there was no proof to confirm or deny that the princely sum originated from and returned to the country, as previously alleged by Najib.

Mahathir's announcement came at the same time the government canceled plans to build a bullet train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The indefinite suspension could cause additional costs, losses and damages, the company said. Weeks later, Mahathir said that his government would review the bullet-train project.

CCCC said it hoped both sides can find a win-win solution through negotiations and that the suspension will be lifted soon. "Under the situation we have no choice but to adhere to the suspension instruction", it said.

Lim said the two gas pipeline projects were worth 11.1 billion ringgit ($2.7 billion), almost 20 percent more than an earlier estimate.

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