|One, would have assumed
that Malaysian politicians, policy makers, media
groups, would have learnt, some rather bitter, but,
useful lessons, in "international diplomacy
and reasonable behavior", after their
"stand off with India", when, local
police were accused of using "rather
bizarre and high handed tactics" detaining
a large group of Indian nationals, who were here,as "IT
That incident, was
well publicized internationally and resulted
in India virtually "ticking off" our Ministers,
on official visit on Indian soil, while another,
proposed visit involving another senior Malaysian
Minister was hastily cancelled, their national
hockey team withdraw from a earlier planned
international hockey meet here, and, long
term economic and bilateral relationships
would have been severely strained and dented
if, fast track apologies and damage
control efforts were not put into place by an embarrassed
I must state rather
proudly here, that credit must be given to
the "quick and speedy remedial action in diplomacy"
by an alert and experienced, Works Minister,
Samy Vellu, whose personal touch and involvement,
saved the nation, of perhaps, a barrage
of reprisals, that would have left us quite,
politicians forget rather quickly of "past
sins" and thus, we seem to have come
a full circle now, with various misleading
media reports and comments, by "young,
fast track politicians", appointed at
the Treasury, whose comments and actions,
have been in "bad taste" and if
unfettered, would reopen "old wounds"
The only difference
being, that this time, the fiasco would also
involve two Asian giants, India and China!
And the cause of
it all, the "inexplicable" delay of the
letter of awards for the Malaysian stretch
of the high-speed Trans-ASEAN Railway project
connecting Singapore with China's Kunming.
The said MoUs
was signed in May 2001, where India is reported
to get $2.63 billion for laying double tracks
for a stretch of 338.8 kilometers from
Ipoh to Pedang Besar, called the Northern Grid,
and China $2.1 billion for the southern grid
to build 297km from Seremban to Johor Baru
in the south.
But, the problem
is, despite the memoranda of understanding
(MoUs) being signed with India's government-owned
International (Indian) Railway Construction
Co (IRCON) and China Railway Engineering Corp
(CREC), the matter is still on the negotiating
table after two years and with no end
in sight, with "new complications", after
recent reports in the Malaysian media, that
the projects will be undertaken by a Malaysian
group, who is strongly connected to
the Malaysian political elites, is highly publicized
To add to the
confusion, ill advised comments pertaining to
the project coming from a "junior"
politician, appointed on a hot political seat
and cabinet position, sends "shock waves"
to senior policymakers associated with
the project from China and India!
I must add that
"diplomatic niceties" were ignored, when
comments were unilaterally made, without
first advising, either, New Dehli or Beijing!
Among the media
statements was one, which appeared in Mailmoney
of the Malay Mail July 12,headlined 'Bidding
War For Rail Job Hots Up'.
But, senior policymakers
associated with the said project in
India and China have asked - "What Bidding
To them, these
comments and statements were irritating and obviously
clear, that someone was totally "misinformed
and firing away, with all forms of claims,
like a loose cannon" and without hesitation, that
the comments published locally and circulated
abroad, may result in "reprisals of an
these comments have also come, after public
comments at a recent International Transport Conference
in Kuala Lumpur by former Transport
Minister, Ling Liong Sik and the Managing
Director of KTMB reiterating, that the Letter
of Award would be given to both IRCON and
CREC "very soon"!
For the record,
not a single meter of track has been laid
in Malaysia for the high-speed Trans-ASEAN
Railway, although the initial work by a Malaysian
company involved for the Rawang Ipoh stretch, has
run into severe problems, delays and
the cost "sky rocketing" - a common
ingredient, when certain, "politically
connected companies" are awarded multi
million ringgit projects!
If this project
fails to take off, as Malaysia haggles over
the price of palm oil price - the currency
of payment for the contracts worth RM18 billion
(US$4.73 billion)or worse, India and China decide
"enough is enough" and pull
out, it will result in damage on three fronts!
It could leave
our beloved retiring Prime Minister, Mahathir
Mohamad, in an "embarrassed position"
internationally ,we could expect trade repercussions
from India and China or our non compliance of an
well publicized MOU with two foreign
governments would make us a pariah, among nations
and others may fear to, in future, get involved
in any bilateral agreements for fear that
"local considerations and politics",
could derail,even international undertakings!
while the Malaysian "Sam Blacks and Double
Js " haggle over "the cost
and politics of the day" - Thailand and Vietnam
is ahead, with Vietnam laying tracks
for the Vietnam-Cambodia sector rather fast!
The irony however
is - Malaysia as the secretariat for the
entire project has done nothing concrete!
According to friends in
New Dehli, policymakers there are upset
at the recent comments and statements made by Malaysians that
there is indeed, a "bidding war!"
Or, is it the "figment
of the imagination of an underworked mind
of a politician", a sandiwara played
out, by Malaysian predators, parasites and
cronies - confusing the market - with half
truths for their own agenda!
The matter is further
made difficult, when, the name of Malaysia's
new corporate "hotshot" Syed Mokhtar Al
Bukhary, the alleged "new darling
of the administration lately", is mentioned
in this news reports emerging from Putrajaya!
This is not new,
as, in the past, we have had others names like
"the Tajudins and the Halims"
been circulated linking them with other multi
million ringgit government awards.
Some of them have
been embroiled in controversies and one cannot,
but wonder, whether new names would be added to
that list and how "untampered history",
will treat them.
But, what is troubling
about this transaction is the claims that
it can be done by the group led by Malaysian Mining
Corp Bhd (MMC) and Gamuda Bhd that will be
40% cheaper at RM14.5 billion, which the same
report claims, is cheaper than the bids by
both, Indian Railway Construction Co. and
China Railway Engineering Corp.
To make matters
worse, newly appointed, Second Finance Minister,
Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis, was also extensively quoted
and whose comments, I am advised, has
caused "severe irritation" in the
corridors of power in New Dehli and Beijing!
As such, international
observers have claimed that Malaysia was playing
"high stakes poker" and added that,
if there was a slip up - the Malaysian
economy and its foreign image on a government to
government basis, will be severely damaged
and irreparable, since, the ones they will
upset most is both China and India!
For one, Malaysian
politicians and policymakers - the "Jaguh
Kampong" here, need to be blamed for
this delay and fiasco.
Kampong" attempt to play at both ends
from the middle in the railway deals
with India in the north and China in the south of
peninsular Malaysia is becoming sour, with
time wasted and no agreement in sight.
The memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with India's
government-owned International (Indian) Railway
Construction Co (IRCON) and China Railway
Engineering Corp (CREC) are still on the negotiating
table after two years.
Not a single meter
of track has been laid in Malaysia for the
high-speed Trans-ASEAN Railway, although retiring
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad assured his
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
partners last month of a railway link
connecting Singapore with China's Kunming. India
has not publicly responded to the ongoing
public comments, but, China have!
In an unusual
move,China's CREC announced through a diplomatically-couched
statement that appeared in the NST - Business
Times June 24 headlined 'Palm oil - for rail
deal with China still on track' claimed that
the deal with China for constructing the southern
grid was not canceled but was taking
a long time to reach an agreement.
That was quite
Both CREC and IRCON
feel frustrated, as Malaysian treasury
officials remained tightlipped , politicians and
others are making various statements publicly on
the matter which is causing severe irritation
and anger and one would hope that common sense
will prevail and we will honor our MOUs and
get on with the job!
must remember that India is the largest
importer of palm oil, nearly 700,000 tons last year.
In June, Indian
import of palm oil increased by more than
34.6 percent because of a delayed monsoon that
affected edible-oil crops. The total increase
in April this year was 41 percent over the
same period last year.
As the barter trade
partner for Malaysia, India feels that
the progress is stymied because of minor details
that can be sorted out easily if Malaysia
is receptive enough. I am been advised the
Chinese feel the same way.
Perhaps, we need
to ask quite sincerely, as to whose
interest, we are serving now by this inexplicable
depending on their political links for
survival or the rights and interest of over 22
million Malaysians in a nation that has had
till now, a well respected image in the eyes
of all nations of honoring our MOUs and
all those, in the ASEAN region, who are looking
to Malaysia for a fast paced leadership by
example, so that this project will become