(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Malaysians are aghast at the government takeover of the Bakun hydroelectric dam project from Ekran, and Anwar's denial that this was a bail-out of Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing lacks credibility.
Anwar's shocking announcement yesterday raises many public interest issues particularly with regard to the propriety of the government takeover of the Bakun project and the use of taxpayers' money to compensate Ekran Bhd.
The RM13.6 billion Bakun hydroelectric dam project was awarded to Ekran in conditions of total opaqueness, with no transparency whatsoever, and in the face of strong public opposition, whether from financial, economic, technical, social or environmental viewpoint. If the government had heeded public opinion, the Bakun hydroelectric dam project would not have been awarded as a privatised project to Ekran Bhd., and there would have been no need to pay any compensation to Tan Sri Ting Pik Khiing or Ekran Bhd.
The relevant question is why the taxpayers should pay for the mistakes of a government which refused to listen to the views of the people?
I understand that the amount of compensation which the Government would be paying to Ekran Bhd. would be in the region of RM700 million - RM300 million for management fees and RM400 million for construction costs.
These are indeed exorbitant figures. Are these colossal sums of compensation justifiable? Furthermore, what about the colossal proceeds which Ekran had collected from timber logging sales undertaken so far in the area concerned.
Malaysians demand that there should be full transparency and accountability in the question of compensation to Ekran. Before the government agrees to any sum of compensation to Ekran, the compensation proposal should first be submitted to Parliament for approval so that the Malaysian public can be given full assurance that the government take-over of the Bakun project is not a bail-out for Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing and Ekran Bhd.
The government take-over of Bakun project has raised a very serious issue as to whether it would set the dangerous precedent where taxpayers will also have to mega-compensations for the other postponed mega-projects, like the Putrajaya Administrative Centre Phase II, the Northern Regional International Airport, the Kuala Lumpur Linear City Project, the Cameron Highlands-Fraser Hill-Genting Highlands Road Project and the Straits of Malacca-Indonesia Bridge which cost over RM52 billion.
As the government intends to set up a National Economic Action Council to be responsible for national economic recovery and to restore confidence in the government's economic management, the issue of government take-over of Bakun project should have been referred to the NEAC as one of the first items for discussion and recommendation.
I call on Anwar Ibrahim to present a Ministerial statement in Parliament next week on the government decision to take over the Bakun project and to convince Parliament that this is not a bail-out for Ting Pek Khiing.