Malaysian newspaper: Lee Hsien Loong is “easy meat” for Mahathir when cancelling the HSR

In a news article, “How Singapore Secretly Helped Najib Razak During The Peak of The 1MDB Scandal ? – Lee Hsien Loong Didn’t Anticipate Mahathir To Unseat Najib” last Thursday (31 May), Malaysian newspaper The Coverage alleged that the High Speed Rail (HSR) was a front designed by former Prime Minister Najib Razak “to include kickbacks”.

In strong words, the article points that it is questionable of Singapore’s claim that it did not know the documents supplied by 1MDB relating to its Brazen Sky Limited account were false bank statements.

“The Monetary Authority of Singapore knew that Arul Kanda was bullshitting when he claimed US$1.103 billion cash was kept at BSI Bank Limited, Singapore.” alleged the author.

It further wrote, “As a financial centre, Singapore does not discriminate against dirty or laundered money.”

The author also asked whether the 350km HSR project was worth RM110 billion when the much longer 688km East Coast Rail Link project costs just half as much: “Obviously, something is fishy when it costs almost double for a shorter railway project”.

First inked in 2016, the project seems to be in limbo now after a sweeping electoral victory by the Pakatan Harapan coalition who has decided that it was not necessary.

Incumbent Prime Minister Tun Mahathir bin Mohamed said that the HSR “is not beneficial. It’s going to cost us a huge sum of money. We’ll make no money at all from this arrangement. It is only a short track. It is only going to save people one hour by taking the HSR.”

Based on a clause in the contract, Malaysia had to pay Singapore RM500 million in liquidated damages if the HSR project were to be cancelled. However, the newspaper speculated that “based on Mahathir’s track record, he is not going to bend over and flash half a billion of ringgit to Lee Hsien Loong without a fight”.

The Malaysian news outlet said that it was better “to lose RM500 million in penalty for cancelling the project… than to spend RM110 billion on a mega-project which is doomed to fail”.

This is because “the ticket price for the HSR trip will be too expensive for ordinary Malaysians”.

“If Mahathir had previously given Lee Kuan Yew a run for his money, chances are the old man is going to do the same to his son now. Heck… there’s nothing Singapore can do about it”.

The newspaper also suggested that Mahathir has some advantages over Singapore in terms of defense systems.

“When push comes to shove, Malaysia can easily threaten Singapore over its national security – by allowing China to deploy its radar surveillance and missile system in Johor, essentially spying on the little island”.

This was in reference to a previous decision by Beijing to offer its AR3 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) to be positioned in Johor with a low-interest payment of up to 50 years.

The newspaper also said that “Hsien Loong is easy meat to Mahathir”.

“Conventional wisdom says it would be wise for Singapore to forget about insisting on the RM500 million penalties, in the interest of maintaining good relationship between both countries. It’s better for Mahathir to owe Lee Hsien Loong a favour than to start a confrontation” the newspaper concluded.