NAJIB – no.1 NEGOTIATER

Posted on May 26, 2010

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24 May : Kudos to our Prime Minister Najib on his successful negotiation and agreement with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station . He now appears to be our number 1 negotiator as he concluded the deal in only ONE day. Shame to our previous Prime Ministers Mahathir and Badawi who had failed to get it done in the past 20 years !

Najib said  the agreement reached  was historical and “we see light at the end of the tunnel” adding “We are both smiling” while Lee HL said “Both of us got a good deal. I think both of us are quite happy and it benefits both sides.”  With the  20-year impasse on the status of KTM Berhad  land now settled,  both leaders declared this will further move their bilateral relationship forward. 

Malaysia still occupies railway land all the way up to Malaysian territory, including the railway station opposite Keppel PSA Port . Under the agreement, Malaysia will move its railway station at Tanjung Pagar to Woodlands by July 2011. In exchange, three parcels of KTMB land  at Tanjung Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands and 3 parcels in Bukit Timah would be jointly developed by a company  M-S Pte Ltd who take ownership of the vacated area and other parcels of land, with 60% equity held by Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Bhd and 40% by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. The 217ha of land is currently valued at RM9.5 billion.

The developed KTMB land will be swapped, on the basis of equivalent value for real estate in Marina South and Ophir Rochor in Singapore.

Both leaders also said a rapid transit system (RTS) between Tanjung Puteri in Johor Baru and Singapore would be jointly developed and integrated with public transport services in Johor Baru and Singapore. The RTS would be operational by 2018.

Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat was supportive of the deal and  said the ‘formula’ agreed upon to develop several pieces of land belonging to KTMB in the republic will benefit both countries. He said “What is important is that a dispute that could not be resolved for so long had finally been ironed out, one that had been a stumbling block to cordial relations between the two neighbours.” 

As expected, we hear cries of doubt and suspicion about the agreement which was concluded in only a day. We are not privy to this negotiation , but I do believe the negotiations would have started when Najib became PM and the curtain finally came down on 24 May.

Opening the salvo was PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim urging Najib to explain in detail the terms and conditions of the deal. “We urge Najib to immediately explain in detail the meaning behind the Points of Agreement (POA) between Singapore and Malaysia…We also want to know the new terms and conditions to maximise the land potential in Singapore. He suspects KTMB may have been shortchanged and that the land given in return would be less in value to what KTMB has to give up. He further questioned how the development  the six land parcels in Singapore  will stimulate the domestic economy , saying “How many of our entrepreneurs, contractors or suppliers will actually be involved in the joint venture?” He accused that  using Khazanah was just another way to mask an attempt to enrich government cronies.

PAS Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad compared the deal struck could be  similar to Limbang. He urged Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to explain the benefits behind the exchange of six land parcels in Tanjung Pagar for two areas in Singapore –  “We would like to know how this compromise was reached between Najib and Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore Prime Minister). We don’t want another Limbang,” . He said the government must take into consideration the opinions of others in ensuring the sovereignty and interest of the country are given priority.
“The era when only the leadership knew everything, especially in the areas of sovereignty, national and public interest is long gone…“So don’t just decide without analysing and doing a detailed study of the situation,” he said.

DAP  MP Tony Pua is wondering whether Najib’s swap of six land parcels in Tanjung Pagar for the  commercial lots in Singapore is related to the RM363 billion national deficit. Pua said he would not be surprised if the agreement was aimed at settling the national debts. “For the moment, what we know is that Najib will receive funds from the development of land in Singapore. The land in Singapore is very valuable….. I believe one of the reasons Najib went ahead with the agreement despite changes in land policies is that the Malaysian government anticipates lucrative returns from the development on KTM land..Let’s see the terms he said.

Today PKR’s Zabidie Abbas had gone a step further lodging a police report against Najib about the shift of the railway station from Tanjung Pagar to Woodlands. He alleged that Najib had a vested interest in the move saying “We suspect Najib has a vested interest in the matter because his decision was sudden, with less than a day of discussion with Singapore… He has to explain. Such matters must be presented in Parliament first before a decision is made”. He claim abuse of power or elements of coercion in the decision and agreement involving a national asset.

Selangor PKR Youth info chief Mohd Ezli Mashut had similarly raised concerns of the agreement and released a statement today questioning the terms of agreement and deplore Najib being easily kneeling down to the requests of other country. He raised the possibility of Temasek who will eventually be the major shareholder in M-S Pte Ltd.

Surprisingly today, our very vocal and outspoken straight shooter ex PM Mahathir was tight-lipped about this issue. He sidestepped nearly all questions shot at him by reporters, simply smiling and shrugging when asked. He simply said: “I don’t know what the agreement is about.”  Perhaps he was stunned by what Najib had achieved in a day and he is still reeling in shock over this issue (  which he couldn’t settled during his premiership ).

Most important now, Najib must show transparency and revealed the details and terms of agreement between him and the Singapore PM to dispel any doubts. He should not give the opposition any chance to make it into another political weapon against his administration. He has a bigger problem ahead especially with  the budget deficit and the proposed subsidies reduction over the next few weeks.