Cancelling a project of such magnitude must have gone through a more structured decision-making process, including preparing a Cabinet paper and getting feedbacks from relevant agencies and state governments

By Gan Ping Sieu

COMMENT

The cancellation of the High Speed Rail project should have been made by the Cabinet prior to its announcement, as a matter of good governance.

While we support the new¬†government’s efforts to review potentially wasteful projects and lop-sided deals, such¬†decisions should have followed due process.

Based on media reports, Transport Minister Anthony Loke was reported to have said that the matter was not discussed in Cabinet prior to the Prime Minister’s May 28 announcement that the project would be shelved.

Rightfully, cancelling a project of such magnitude, involving transnational interests, ought to have gone through a more structured decision-making process. This includes preparing a Cabinet paper and getting feedbacks from all relevant agencies and state governments.

Based on news reports, the Prime Minister’s May 28 announcement to call off the project was made after chairing his party’s supreme council meeting and not in his capacity as PM announcing a Cabinet decision.

The Federal Constitution is clear that the Cabinet is the highest executive body. The manner in which the announcement was made run counter to the spirit of accountability and transparency pledged by the new Federal government.

The eventual May 30 Cabinet decision can be perceived as an afterthought and clearly without going through sufficient consultation.

If decisions on a RM110 billion mega project can be made without stringent due process, we are worried that this may set a bad precedent in deciding other government projects.

Such decision undermines institutional integrity which should never be compromised for political expediency.

Institutional decision-making process is an integral part of good governance, which Cenbet promotes. All major national decisions must be made by the Cabinet after due process and consultation to prevent abuse of power and leakages.

Gan Ping Sieu is the co-president of civil society movement Centre for A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet)

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