Malaysians are supposed to feel ecstatic when the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) ground breaking project ceremony officiated by the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak on 8 Aug. 2017 eventually kicked-in, but the opposition and special interest groups decided to respond negatively over Chinese investment into the country. This is not the first time infrastructure plan initiated by the government for the benefit of people was being criticized for its affliation with China. The saga is expected to persist on China-backed projects like Bandar Malaysia, TRX City and Melaka Gateway, among others.

The people’s uneasiness towards Malaysia’s close relations with China is not without basis. A series of Chinese vessels’ encroachment into our maritime territories and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) plan are widely perceived as threats on Malaysia’s sovereignty and economy respectively. China’s socialist system and its political inclination towards communism are also at disadvantage considering Malaysia’s past experience fighting the Malayan Communist Party and its ideology, resulting into a war-time wound that remain in Malaysia’s history. But should the ghost of our past stop the country from progressing? The United States, Japan and Germany were born out of rubbles and yet becoming great nations in a modern world.

No countries would thrive without struggles, however the present ‘danger’ we feared the most – the country’s sovereignty we uninamously believe our government are jeopardizing – will actually be resolved in the most justifiable and satisfactory way for the best interest of both parties. It is frivolous to think that our leadership would simply risk the future of our country for their own personal gain; such an irresponsible reporting to discredit the government. While loans from China were offered at the most competitive rates, the decision to pursue these projects are surely made after series of consultation and meetings were held, in which skilled technical team was appointed by the government. So, which part of confidentiality that we fail to understand here? Should every high-level meeting be openly discussed and shared hereafter?

We should look at the broad picture, not creating issues over trivial things. The heavily-used banners and buntings in Chinese characters and utilizing Chinese EmCees (MCs) during the recent ECRL ground breaking ceremony will not undermine our mother language, the Bahasa Malaysia. The reason behind it could be purely administrative, since the ceremony is also attended by Chinese officials. But for most part of the occassion, Malaysian identity are preserved through traditional dances and music, while English are being used as the main medium of communication throughout the event for better understanding on both sides. International journalists also did news coverage on that day, so what is the fuss actually?

Malaysia’s refusal to stay competitive in the region would only hamper its economic growth. The 600km ECRL project will shortened destinations from east coast of Peninsular Malaysia to the west within four hours, while the spillover effect will be felt by both the people and businesses alike. The project will be a catalyst for economic equality between east and west coast through investment, commerce activities, job creation and boosting tourism in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. The new rail network, with Malaysia as the base, will also create alternative routes that could help boost our trade with Asean countries, while giving Malaysia the trade advantage over Singapore and reach our potential trade partners in North Asia. No wonder the ECRL project is dubbed as a ‘game changer’ and a ‘mindset changer’ for Malaysia and its people.

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