SINGAPORE: Singapore could have turned down Malaysia’s request to defer the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR), enforced its legal rights on termination and sought compensation from Malaysia, Channel NewsAsia reported today.
But Singapore decided to work out an “alternative resolution” to the problem “in the spirit of bilateral cooperation”, especially since Malaysia has reassured Singapore that it did want to resume the HSR project, albeit after a delay, the island nation’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan reportedly said in Parliament.
Both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments agreed to suspend the construction of the project for a duration until May 31, 2020.
The exchange of legal documents between the countries was done on Sept 5 in Putrajaya.
Malaysia has agreed to pay an abortive cost of S$15 million (RM45 million) to the Singapore government by Jan 31, 2019.
Khaw said that turning down the request would have been fully in accordance with the bilateral agreement signed by both countries in December 2016.
“After that, if and when Malaysia was again ready to pursue such a project, we could discuss a new bilateral agreement for it,” he was quoted as saying.
Khaw said that beyond two years, the current cost estimates would likely be no longer valid, which would “affect the viability of the project and its business case”.
“A longer suspension period would also impact our development plans for the Jurong Lake District, which will host the Singapore HSR Terminus and many transport, commercial, residential and recreational developments,” he said.
He added that Malaysia had requested that during the suspension period, both sides discuss the way forward for the project, with the aim of reducing costs.
Khaw said that Singapore is open to such discussions, but it is not obliged to accept automatically any proposals offered.
Nonetheless, he said that Singapore will assess any proposal from Malaysia “carefully and objectively”.