Pakatan leaders insist highway deal is reward for Perak

(The Malaysian Insider)  — Opposition lawmakers stood their ground today on allegations that the Kidex (Kinrara-Damansara Expressway) concession was awarded to Umno-linked firms “as a reward for Perak’s fall”, pointing to the contract’s whopping RM2.2 billion price tag as proof.

Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin demanded the government explain why the 50km Kidex could rack up such a high cost when the concessionaire for the 316km Banting-Taiping highway was estimated at RM7.07 billion.

“Why such a disproportionate sum? How can a highway of 50km cost RM2.2 billion and then the Banting-Taiping highway, which was initially supposed to be RM3 billion, costs RM7.07 billion for a much longer distance,” Nizar, who was formerly Perak Mentri Besar, told The Malaysian Insider.

“So where can they rationalise the award here… if you talk about per kilometre, there is a lot of difference between the two highways,” he added.

Earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin insisted that the Kidex contract was awarded to only the most “qualified” companies and rubbished claims that it was due to political reasons.

“But if DPM says the companies are qualified, have good track records and all that, then explain why the costing seems completely out of tune.

“Explain if the highway was awarded as a reward for Perak’s fall,” Nizar said today when dismissing Muhyiddin’s remarks.

The Perak PAS leader and his PR colleagues recently demanded the government state its basis for awarding the highway deal to companies owned by Umno lawyer Datuk Hafarizam Harun and the wife of former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi.

The companies in question are Emrail Sdn Bhd and Zabima Engineering Sdn Bhd. Hafarizam is a director in both firms while Zaki’s wife, Toh Puan Nik Sazlina Mohd Zain is a director in Emrail.

The issue was first raised by controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who claimed of the possibility that the lucrative contract could have been a reward to the duo for allegedly helping deliver Perak to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

Perak fell to PR in Election 2008 but was recaptured by BN during a year-long constitutional impasse that ensued when three PR lawmakers left their parties to become BN-friendly independents.

The PR lawmakers also dismissed Muhyiddin’s claim that the two firms were selected based on merit, pointing out that the deputy prime minister had still failed to disclose if the project had been awarded via open tender or direct negotiation.

“Was it done via open or direct tender? Disclose the information for us to judge.

“The DPM’s statement does not clarify whether it was done via direct or open tender – hence how would we know the veracity of the merit claim?” PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar (picture) told The Malaysian Insider.