The real reason Singapore’s Transport Minister flipped Azmin Ali the bird

Last Saturday, Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali told reporters that the 14thJoint Ministerial Committee for Inskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) meeting, scheduled for yesterday, was postponed because issues that were to be discussed had already been touched on.

While that may be true, what Azmin told reporters was a truth of omission, which, in essence, is a complete lie.

Basically, the postponement had nothing to do with issues already discussed but Singapore’s dissatisfaction over delays to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project.

The republic’s Transport Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, is well aware of Mahathir’s and Azmin’s attempt to get all the usual suspects – the likes of Vincent Tan, Syed Mokhtar and gang – involved with the project and will continue to stall it until he agrees to all their terms.

THE THIRD FORCE

Last Saturday, Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali told reporters that the 14thJoint Ministerial Committee for Inskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) meeting, scheduled for yesterday, was postponed because issues that were to be discussed had already been touched on. According to him, the issues were hashed out at a bilateral session between Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. Balakrishan, who met Azmin the next day, more or less corroborated the claim by admitting that he and Azmin discussed matters pivotal to relations between our two nations. While that may be true, what Azmin told reporters on Saturday was a truth of commission, which essentially, is a complete lie.

That is to say, Azmin deliberately omitted a crucial part to the story that would have put an entirely different complexion to the whole affair. Basically, the postponement of the JMCIM meeting had nothing to do with issues already discussed but Singapore’s dissatisfaction over delays to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project. Yesterday, the republic’s Transport Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, told Channel News Asia that the project was “not progressing well” owing to the Government of Malaysia’s (GOM) failure in keeping its end of the bargain. According to him, the GoM missed several milestones and repeatedly delayed the confirmation of its joint venture partner.


Khaw has indirectly called Malaysia’s bluff over delays to the RTS link project

“Over the past few months, Malaysia has indicated that they are considering replacing their JV (joint venture) partner, but has delayed confirming their JV partner – first until September 2018, then until December 2018 and most recently on Dec 28, 2018, Malaysia requested to be given until Feb 28, 2019 to confirm their JV partner.

“As a result of these delays, the joint venture company has not even been incorporated to-date, let alone signed the CA.

“Meanwhile, Malaysia has also unilaterally suspended bilateral discussions to appoint the OpCo since August 2018, pending its confirmation of the Malaysian JV partner,” said Mr Khaw.

The project was spawn off an idea first mooted by former Singaporean Communications Minister Mah Bow Tan. In 1991, Mah, on behalf of Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, offered to design the Woodlands Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line in ways that would accommodate an extension linking the southern republic to Johor Bahru. The idea was endorsed and agreed upon by Malaysia and Singapore but never quite made it to the drawing board. Then, on the 16thof January 2018, former Malaysian premier Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak joined his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, in witnessing the signing of a bilateral agreement that brought the RTS link a step closer to fruition.

The agreement was signed by Khaw together with Malaysia’s then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Dato’ Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

In a joint press release, Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that the link, when completed, could ferry up to 10,000 passengers hourly in each direction, translating to an additional capacity of 60,000 users criss-crossing the causeway at peak hours on a daily basis.

“Passengers travelling in either direction will clear both Malaysia and Singapore authorities at the point of departure, and need not go through immigration clearance again at the point of arrival,” the statement read.

An entry by Channel News Asiadated the 16thof January 2018 read:

Each country will appoint an Infrastructure Company (InfraCo) to fund, build, own, maintain and renew the civil infrastructure and stations within their territories. In Malaysia, the InfraCo will be Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, while LTA will be Singapore’s InfraCo.  

Both governments will also jointly appoint an operating company (OpCo) to own, design, build, finance, operate, maintain and renew the RTS Link’s operating assets such as trains, tracks and systems.  

The OpCo will pay a concession fee to the two countries in exchange for the right to collect fare revenue from operating the Link. The authorities said fares will be set on a commercial basis by the OpCo and not regulated by the two governments.  

Under the terms of the agreement, the OpCo for the first concession period of 30 years, will be a joint venture between a Malaysian and a Singaporean company.  

These companies are Prasarana from Malaysia and SMRT Corporation in Singapore.  

“The companies have committed to incorporate the JV (Joint Venture) by 30 June 2018, and to sign the concession agreement by 30 September 2018. Subsequent concessions will be awarded through open tender,” the statement said. 

But none of these commitments have been honoured.

Ever since the DAP led Pakatan Harapan wrested control of the Federal Government from Barisan Nasional, Tun Dr Mahathir has been busy holding foreign governments at ransom either by derailing existing transportation related projects or cancelling them altogether. On the 14th of March 2018, I wrote:

On the 1st of January 2001, Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH) became the second concessionaire to enter the Selangor water scene by bagging a 30-year contract to maintain the Sungai Selangor Dam. The company was 40 percent Gamuda Berhad owned while the remaining 60 percent of its shares were split between Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Berhad (KPSB) and Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah. Wan Azmi was (and still is) a well known associate of Daim Zainuddin and is someone who shares a rapport of sorts with both Anwar and his wife.

Now, what does this tell you?

Well, it tells you that SPLASH is controlled by a Tan Sri who is as much a Mahathirist as he is an Anwarist. Then, you have the guys at KPSB who are controlled one way or the other by Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali via Menteri Besar Selangor (Incorporated), the state’s asset management company. Factor all this together, and you have sufficient grounds to reason that SPLASH is 60 percent Pakatan Harapan ‘controlled’ and not a ‘Barisan Nasional entity’ as Hannah Yeoh would have you believe.

Then, on the 10thof July 2018, I added:

There are 101 reasons why Mahathir and Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali would want the HSR project to be scrapped. 

The duo are attempting to break every possible link there may be between Anwar, Wan Azmi and Gamuda’s largest shareholder, Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena Raja Azlan Shah.

Raja Eleena is the daughter of Raja Azlan Shah and happens also to be listed in Forbes’ 40 Richest Malaysians as among the country’s richest women.

Both Mahathir and Azmin are concerned that Anwar may share a rapport of sorts with Raja Eleena though the Sultan of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah.

To prevent Anwar’s men from gaining control of SPLASH, Mahathir decided to scrap the HSR project to plunge Gamuda’s shares into a tailspin.

He then got his cronies to snap some of those shares up and is now a major player in the Selangor water scene.

One of these cronies happens to be Tan Sr Vincent Tan, who happens also to be the guy who snapped up 22.2 million shares belonging to Syarikat T7 Global (T7), an oil and gas service provider that entered a bid for the East Coast Railway-Link (ECRL) project. On the 5th of January 2018, I wrote:

Not long after (Vincent purchased T7’s shares), the GoM threw a bolt from the blue by announcing that the project, called off previously for being too pricey, was back on track at an added value of RM15 billion. Vincent then agreed to foot the difference by procuring soft loans from banks belonging to Daim. But China rubbished the whole thing as it made no sense whatsoever to renegotiate terms when the original deals were working fine.

So, to make the project appear more viable, Daim undertook to ‘rationalise’ the whole affair by quietly bundling parts of the construction into a new contract. The contract, yet in the pipeline, is set to be handed over to Vincent Tan through subsidiaries belonging to the Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary owned AlBukhary Corporation Sdn Bhd. The rationalisation is supposed to bring the cost of the original project down by about RM25 billion with a small portion of the difference meant to compensate contractors for delays. However, the compounded cost of the two projects – the ‘scaled-down’ version and the one in the pipeline – is anticipated to be worth RM80 billion, 20 billion upstream of the initial RM55 billion cost.

See the scam?

If you do, you should also be able to see the real reason the GoM has been pussyfooting around with Singapore on the RTS link project. Khaw, who previously got pissed with the GoM for infringing international law by “building into its Malsysian waters, is well aware of Mahathir’s attempt to squeeze the southern republic to the brink of desperation. Basically, he knows that both Mahathir and Azmin want all the usual suspects – the likes of Vincent Tan, Syed Mokhtar and gang – involved with the RTS link and will continue to stall the project until he agrees to all their terms.

That, in essence, is why Khaw refused to proceed with the JMCIM meeting…


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