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Monday, April 29, 2019

Why RM44b ECRL ok but NOT RM4b Labuan bridge??

LABUAN - An activist here queried how did the government find ways to have the China-backed mega rail project back on track but not the proposed Labuan-Menumbok project which cost only 10 percent of the rail project is still in the KIV (keep in view) tray. 

Fauziah Datuk Din was referring to the RM44 billion 640 (kilometer) East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to Port Dickson and the Labuan-Menumbok 11km bridge which is to cost RM4 billion.

She said," while the new rail link is a useful infrastructure project in which West Malaysia would surely benefit, similarly the Labuan bridge is also a useful project for Labuan and Sabah.

"The rail connection fit into China's Road and Belt programme and similarly the Labuan bridge would be plugged into the under construction Pan-Borneo Highway.”

Fauziah reminded that several universities led by the UMS which did a feasibility study on the bridge project have said that the project was viable and recommended that the project is implemented for the present and future benefit of Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak.

"The previous government did not act upon the recommendation and neither seem the new government.... Is Labuan not important?" asked Fauziah. 

She said that when Labuan was federalised in 1984 it was carried out without any form of payment being made to the state government but only the promise that under Federal rule the island would be turned into a prosperous island and become like little Singapore,"... But now after more than 3o years as a Federal territory we are neither a pale comparison of Kuala Lumpur or Putrajaya." 

She said that the records show that was at the ultimate cost of US$8.1 billion and in the case of Selangor, it was paid RM4 billion.

Fauziah said that about three years ago a China-backed investor led by former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh had submitted a proposal to implement the bridge with no cost for the government but built under a land-swap deal. 

However, she said that it was disappointing the proposal was dismissed without any negotiations made. 

During the GE13, a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (a party which is now under Pakatan Harapan) candidate had included in the party local manifesto that the bridge would be implemented. 

After the GE14, local leader Samsuddin Sidek went on a signature drive to collect about 30,000 signature from residents here and Sabah to show support with the construction of the bridge.

"But now after GE14, PKR has forgotten about the bridge," she said. 

The Labuan-Menumbok bridge was proposed under the Labuan Master development Plan in 1997 that was prepared by the then local authority, Labuan Development Authority. 

Before the GE14, the BN Government approved an allocation of RM14 million for a new study on the project but was cancelled by the new Federal Minister Khalid Abdul Samad with the explanation that the economic benefits of the bridge was doubtful and that the link would trigger an influx of outside traders into the island and thus affect the earnings of locals. 

But when the Minister was harshly criticised for the cancellation, he clarified that the new study had been cancelled but that the bridge itself has not been voided. 

However, until today there has been no news on the bridge but more news on infrastructure development that are taking place in the peninsula.

By Sohan Das

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