The East Coast Rail Link project site in Bentong, Pahang. The picture was taken at 4.37pm yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: AN air of confusion hangs over the future of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) as two senior ministers yesterday seemed to be at odds with each other over the RM81 billion project.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said the cabinet decided on Thursday to cancel the project, but Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said later that he was “shocked” by the announcement.

Azmin said in the morning, the government decided to cancel the project with contractor China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) due to high annual interest rates.

“This is the final decision. It was decided that the cost is too high. We don’t have the financial capability to see it through at the moment. If this project is not cancelled, the interest that the government has to pay will reach nearly half a billion ringgit.”

He said the government had explored options to build the 688km rail project connecting the Klang Valley to the east coast, but the amount was still too high.

On the compensation to CCCC, Azmin said it would be determined by the Finance Ministry.

“The Finance Ministry has done due diligence to ensure that the compensation will not burden the country.”

Asked if the government was looking for another contractor to take over the project, Azmin said the matter had not been decided.

He, however, said Malaysia welcomed all forms of investment.

“We want to maintain foreign direct investments into Malaysia so that we can create wealth and jobs.”

However, later in the day, Lim said he was shocked by Azmin’s announcement and the latter might not have been updated about the decision made by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Lim said Azmin was not in the last cabinet meeting, but then clarified that the latter might not be privy to the decision made by Dr Mahathir.

“Sorry, I wouldn’t say that Azmin wasn’t in the cabinet meeting. What I meant is that he wasn’t privy to the decision made by Tun.

“Anyway, a statement may be issued next week subject to instruction by Tun.”

Asked to confirm whe-ther Azmin had attended the cabinet meeting, Lim said: “I don’t want to say that as it may lead to unhealthy perception.

“All I want to say is that maybe he was not informed of the prime minister’s intention.”

One of Azmin’s officers later confirmed that he attended the cabinet meeting. The officer, who declined to be named, confirmed this via a WhatsApp message.

“Greetings everyone... since you have been asking, I can confirm that Datuk Seri Azmin attended the cabinet meeting on Thursday.”

Meanwhile, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he believed that an official statement would be issued by the government soon.

Without elaborating, he said the matter had been handed to the ministry responsible to provide a detailed explanation.

“I think an official statement will be made, so I hope no one can say that or this… There is just one stand, (an) official statement by the government. It does not matter (by) who. It will make everybody clear about the decision,” he said after launching a book by Setiawangsa member of parliament Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.