Call on Mahathir to clarify whether it is true that one of the first government decisions after the general election was to revive the Bakun hydro-electric dam project which is going to cost more than RM13.6 billion when it was suspended by Anwar in November 1997

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): According to The Star yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his speech to Malaysian students in Malaysia Hall, London on Sunday defended  mega projects such as the KLIA, Bakun Dam, Putrajaya  and Petronas Twin Towers.

Stressing that these were infrastructure projects, he said the Government was building them cheap now for the future.

The Prime Minister said: "The KLIA cost US$3bil (RM11.4bil). The Hong Kong airport cost US$20bil (RM76bil) and it is smaller than ours. The KL twin towers is the cheapest of that height. They may build another one cheaper, but they will only get one! We can afford them. We did not borrow any money for these projects."

Parliament, when it reconvenes on February 14, 2000, should have a full-fledged debate on the mega projects in the country, whether the country really needs them.

I am today, however, only interested in  the issue of the  Bakun Dam, for it should not be referred in the same breath as KLIA, Putrajaya and Petronas Twin Towers as the RM13.6 billion Bakun dam project had been suspended since November 1997 unless the Bakun dam project has been moved from the suspended mode to the reactivation mode.

I call on Mahathir to clarify whether it is true that one of the first government decisions after the recent  general election was  to revive the Bakun hydro-electric dam project and it is going to cost even more than RM13.6 billion when it was suspended by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri  Anwar Ibrahim in November 1997 - and that the latest estimates for the revived Bakun dam project  are in the RM20 billion region.

The Bakun dam project was one of the issues which resulted in the fall-out between Mahathir and Anwar.  During the last general election in November 1999, Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud openly accused Anwar of sabotaging Bakun and other large development projects in Sarawak. Taib blamed Anwar for the suspension of the Bakun dam project during the economic crisis.

He said: "In front of the Prime Minister, Anwar supported all development projects in Sarawak which could benefit the nation.  But behind Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he criticised and cancelled these projects."

In early November last year,  Anwar had testified in his High Court sodomy trial that he had clashed with Mahathir  when he disagreed with the Prime Ministerís directive to him to use Treasury funds to compensate Ekran Berhad, the proponent of the Bakun dam project and which belonged to businessman Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing, without proper audit and procedure  as it was not the duty of the Finance Minister to "plunder" public funds to  save any company.

Anwar said  the Prime Minister was "furious" with him over the matter and this led to "bad blood" between them which culminated in his  dismissal on Sept 2, 1998.

Malaysians have still not been told how much compensation the government had paid Ekran Berhad after Anwar had been sacked as Finance Minister although Ting Pek Khiing was  asking for RM950 million compensation.

In the Sarawak State Assembly on November 10, 1998, Assistant Finance and Public Utilities Minister Michael Manyin said he was given to understand that the Federal Government had on Sept 7, 1998 (five  days after Anwar was sacked from the Cabinet) "offered to pay Bakun Hydroelectric Corporation Berhad a sum  of  RM811 million to take over its assets and liabilities so as to enable the Federal Government to take over the implementation of the project".

He added: "It is also learnt that more than half of the said sum is intended for reimbursement to Ekran Berhad for the expenses which the company had incurred in the management and implementation of the project prior to its takeover by the Federal Government."

Manyin also told the Sarawak State Assembly that  Ekran Berhad harvested 1,000ha of forests and extracted 79,000 cubic  metres of timber within the area of the shelved Bakun hydro-electric dam project.

The  Sarawak State Government had received RM10.84 million from the logging activities as under the terms and conditions of the licence, Ekran shall pay a premium to the State government  in lieu of royalty under the Forest Ordinance. Ekran was the recipient of the proceeds of the sale of timber extracted from the Bakun Dam area apart from the premium paid to the State government.

Immediately after the suspension of the Bakun dam project in November 1997, the Federal Government, in consultation with the Sarawak state government, considered resuming the project on a reduced scale, perhaps to supply power only to Sarawak and Sabah.

Malaysians are entitled to know whether it is true that  the government has decided after the tenth general election to fully revive the Bakun dam project and that  it would cost even more than RM13.6 billion when it was suspended in November 1997.

The Government should make public the report and recommendations of the study undertaken by Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco), which were  commissioned to review the scope and scale and timing for reviving the Bakun dam project and the exact organisations involved.

The Cabinet after its weekly meeting tomorrow should release a full report on the governmentís latest position on the revival of the Bakun dam project, its latest cost, the compensation which had been paid to Ekran and Ting Pek Khiing giving full breakdowns of the items of compensation and whether they would be involved again in the revival of the Bakun dam project.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman