(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Cabinet should release all the relevant documents, studies and data to allow Parliament to decide whether the Bakun hydroelectric dam project should be revived in its original scale or to approve the Tenaga Nasional’s proposal after it had taken over the project from Ekran Bhd., to build a smaller dam producing 500 megawatts to meet Sarawak and Sabah’s power needs.
The revival of the Bakun dam project in its original scale would allow Malaysia to chalk up a number of “firsts”, such as the world’s highest dam with its physical design in the form of a Concrete Face Rockfill Dam of 205 metres high and being the largest of its type in the world, as well as flooding an area the size of Singapore of about 69,500 hectares as its reservoir area in addition to requiring l.5 million hectares as its catchment area. But it could also end up with Malaysia achieving another first - the world’s biggest White Elephant Dam as the most expensive but most underutilised dam in the world, especially with the scrapping of the plan to lay the world’s longest 670 km-long undersea link between Sarawak and the peninsula.
Although Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, said yesterday that the revived Bakun dam project would be one-third cheaper than the estimated RM13.5 billion before it was shelved following the Asian financial crisis in 1997, and would now cost about RM9 billion, this is no great news as it is because of the dropping of the undersea cable between Sarawak and the peninsula.
As the dropping of the undersea cable would make the Bakun dam project even more economically unviable, as the original plan was to supply the electricity needs of Malaysia and Singapore through the link, would the undersea cable be revived one or two years down the line so as to make the revival of the Bakun dam project in its original scale more viable - with the final cost in the region of RM20 billion instead of RM9 billion?
The Energy, Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Amar Leo Moggie should explain whether all Cabinet Ministers were supplied with all the relevant documents, studies and data to make an informed decision at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday whether to revive the Bakun hydro-electric dam project in its original scale or to approve the Tenaga Nasional’s proposal for a smaller dam producing 500 megawatts to meet Sarawak and Sabah’s power needs.
Or were the Cabinet Ministers just all “yes-men” and “yes-women” who gave the rubber-stamp approval to the proposal to revive the Bakun dam project in its original scale without any detailed discussion or informed debate, as the decision had already been made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad?
This may be the reason why no Cabinet Minister would be able to answer the question why he or she voted for the revival of the Bakun dam project in its original scale instead of accepting Tenaga Nasional’s proposal for a smaller dam of about 500 megawatts to meet Sabah and Sarawak needs - although this is a decision every Cabinet Minister is responsible individually and must be able to defend publicly under the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility.