by Han Lang
In his typical direct and no-nonsense approach, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project (HSR): “It’s not beneficial. It’s going to cost us a huge sum of money. We’ll make no money at all from this arrangement.”
Dr Mahathir’s predecessor, Najib Razak, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong however had a different view. Speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding in KL in July 2016, both leaders emphasised the economic and spin-off benefits of the project, which included “development potential around the terminus” in both countries, and the creation of almost 30,000 jobs.
So, who is or are right? Dr Mahathir or Datuk Najib and PM Lee? One side must have presented an inaccurate or untrue picture.
Given that PM Lee had shared the same views as Datuk Najib, one may logically conclude that he would then disagree with the new Malaysian Government’s views.
Would PM Lee then reveal the full set of statistics and information which led to Singapore inking the deal back in 2016, including the tangible benefits (in numbers) to Singapore?
At the same time, what does it say of the level of respect Malaysia has towards Singapore if they choose to break the news of the decision to the media before informing their Singaporean counterparts? Would Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan send a protest note to Dr Mahathir’s government?
Lastly, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has, on several occasions, labelled some Singaporeans “dishonest”.
In his recent dealing with historian Thum Ping Tjin, Shanmugam said of the latter’s “allegations” about former PM Lee Kuan Yew: “Either they have to be accepted, or shown to be untrue. Keeping quiet about them was not an option.”
As Dr Mahathir and Datuk Najib are clearly expressing vastly different views, would Shanmugam now deem it fitting to expose the dishonest party accordingly as the differing views of the two Malaysian leaders have an impact on Singaporeans’ understanding of the subject?