Bakun sale not bailout, says Muhyiddin

By Lee Wei Lian, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — The deputy prime minister today refuted opposition claims that proposed sale of the troubled Bakun Dam project to Sarawak was tantamount to a bailout.

“This is a business transaction, a commercial deal,” he told reporters at a press conference at the World Capital Markets Symposium.

DAP veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang had claimed that the offer to sell the dam project to the Sarawak state government would effectively constitute a bailout of the scandalised project.

“In all appearances it seems it is a bailout. If it is so, it is at the expense of state coffers in Sarawak. I think Malaysians are entitled to full details of the sale,” he told newswire AFP.

The controversial Bakun mega-dam has been plagued by condemnations from various quarters that it is a catastrophe for the environment and local tribes, and has been hit by cost overruns and delays that pushed up its initial price from RM4.5 billion to an estimated RM7.3 billion or higher.

When the Bakun project, a 205m deep reservoir the size of Singapore, was initiated, villagers living downstream of the dam — from Belaga, Song, Kapit and Sibu — had feared that if the dam wall were to break, it would cause them to be swept away in a tidal tsunami.

The project, owned by Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Inc, started construction more than 15 years ago in 1994.  The physical work on the mega dam was completed this month and it is expected to be flooded next month.

Muhyiddin confirmed today that the federal government had agreed to sell the dam to the Sarawak government but declined to elaborate, saying that negotiations were ongoing.

The Sarawak state government offered RM6 billion for the dam, almost RM3 billion less than other reported bids.