SINGAPORE: Singapore has requested that the Malaysian Government clarify its position on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said in a statement on Friday (Jun 1).
He said that Singapore made this request through "diplomatic channels" following media reports of Malaysia's decision to terminate the project. He also said that Singapore would exercise its rights to compensation if the project was terminated.
"We have informed the Malaysian Government that Singapore is continuing to incur costs on this project as it awaits Malaysia’s clarification, and that in the event Malaysia terminates the project, Singapore will study the implications and exercise our rights (including any right to compensation for expenses incurred) in accordance with the terms of the HSR bilateral agreement," said Mr Khaw.
When Malaysia proposed the project to Singapore in 2013, Singapore agreed because it was convinced of the project's benefits to Singapore, said the minister.
"We still believe that a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur would be in our mutual interest, economically as well as in terms of the friendship and mutual understanding of our two peoples."
Singapore continues to support the project and to fulfill its obligations under the bilateral agreement, said Mr Khaw.
"However, it is only tenable to continue the project if Malaysia likewise supports it, and is willing to fulfil its end of the agreement," he added. "Singapore looks forward to being informed of Malaysia’s position on the matter.”
Mr Khaw's comments come after Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday confirmed that Malaysia would scrap the high-speed rail project, saying that it would not benefit the country.
Singapore's Ministry of Transport later on Monday said that it had not been formally notified of Malaysia's plans to scrap the project. The next day, Dr Mahathir said he would inform Singapore of the decision.
Construction for the project was set to begin this year, with the line expected to begin operations in 2026.
PROJECT COULD BE REVISITED IN THE FUTURE: LIM
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said that although the project has been scrapped, this "doesn't mean it cannot be revisited in the future".
"The prime minister is taking a personal interest in handling the negotiations of how to at this moment terminate this project, so that it can be revisited in the future," he said.
"Let him (Mahathir) move at his own pace," added Mr Lim. "I'm sure I'll get the necessary directions when it's ready. You don't pressure the Malaysian prime minister."
Mr Lim said that Malaysia "understand(s) the sensitivity ... that the cancellation of these projects has cost to neighbouring countries".
"But I think this is a choice that we are compelled to make, in order to restructure our debts to make sure that we do not mortgage the future of our children."