Saturday 13 Apr 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (July 17): The government is seeking to strike out a lawsuit over the cancellation of the RM110 billion High-Speed Rail (HSR) project between Malaysia and Singapore, on grounds that public policy decisions are a non-justiciable matter in any court and plaintiff Mohd Hatta Sanuri has no legal right to initiate the suit.

In his affidavit filed on behalf of the defendants (the government), solicitor general Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh said that the subject matter of the lawsuit was related to the Cabinet’s decision on Dec 12, 2020, a public policy decision which was based on bilateral negotiations and research on cost and economic benefits for the country.

In court filings seen by The Edge, he added that the defendants had carried out their duties sincerely for the benefit of the country by evaluating all conditions before arriving at their decision.

"The defendants' decision is a public policy decision which cannot be heard in any court. Therefore I believe that this [lawsuit] is vexatious and an abuse of court process," he said

Mohd Hatta, a lawyer by profession, filed the suit in December last year against former prime ministers Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of economy Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed, former transport minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong and the government for alleged negligence and misconduct.

Among others, he was seeking that the HSR project be revived and the defendants be ordered to pay RM1 million compensation to each Malaysian.

In the application to strike out the suit filed in April this year, the solicitor general also added that Mohd Hatta had no locus standi (right to bring an action or to appear in court) as he had no direct or indirect interest in the cancellation of the construction project.

He added that Mohd Hatta was not impacted by the project's cancellation, nor did he suffer any losses or injury from the government's decision to discontinue the project. 

"[Mohd Hatta] has no contractual agreement and was not a party to the Memorandum of Understanding and Bilateral Agreement signed by the Malaysian and Singaporean governments," he said.

Mohd Hatta, however, contended that he has the capacity to bring upon the legal action as he is a Malaysian, a registered voter who hopes that the government carries out its duties for the benefit of the country and its people.

In his reply filed in May this year, Mohd Hatta added that he has indeed been impacted by the cancellation of the project as he, along with fellow Malaysians, were entitled to enjoy the benefits from the project.

The project, which consists of a 350km railway line, was to be completed in 2026, reducing travel time between both destinations to 90 minutes. The bilateral agreement was signed in Dec 2016. However, the project was put on hold two years later in Sept 2018.

Both Malaysia and Singapore subsequently agreed to hit pause on the project until Dec 2020.

But in Jan 2021, both countries jointly announced the termination of the project as no agreement had been reached on the changes proposed by Malaysia and the agreement had expired on December 31, 2020.

In March 2021, Malaysia announced it had paid S$102.8 million (RM330 million) to Singapore for the cost incurred by the republic for the development of the HSR and the delays involved.

Edited BySurin Murugiah
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