No, my title is not about Cornelius Ryan classic on the Arnhem bridge during WWII, where the British army balled up its plan to seize that strategic bridge as part of the Allies's plan to invade Germany. It's about our Malaysian Bridge of Sand.
When Malaya was enticing Singapore to merge with her to form Malaysia, she offered a water price of 3 sens per 1000 gallons in a long term treaty. But since 1965 Singapore has not been part of Malaysia. As time progresses, the Malaysian government under Mahathir wanted to revise that ridiculous price, a price meant only for a member state of Malaysia. It proposed 60 sens per 1000 gallons as a fairer price.
Singapore, though more than able to afford the revised price, fears it might be the thin edge of a wedge which may see Malaysia eventually demanding RM8 per 1000 gallons. Also, removing the causeway would open up international shipping business in Malaysia's favour. The Singapore government has therefore resisted the Malaysian request, stating that if 3 sen per 1,000 gallons is a ridiculous price, the Malaysians have only themselves to blame.
Though Singapore talks proudly of doing away with dependence upon Malaysian water, in reality that dream is still far away from realisation. One of its strategists has warned against that possibility, as the world runs short of water everywhere.
Thus, Singapore has also stated that as it depends heavily on Malaysian water, for Malaysia to stop it unilaterally would be considered as an act of war towards Singapore.
Some Singaporeans claimed that the bitterness between the two countries stems from Malaysia’s inability to fully come to terms with the separation – hmmm, especially more so when a Singapore is doing better than Mother Malaysia.
There were suggestions that Malaysia’s first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman kicked Singapore out to teach her some humility, not intending for her expulsion to be permanent. Tunku had expected Singapore to come crawling back with her tail between her hind legs, and would then accept her re-admittance into Malaysia, but with Lee Kuan Yew losing mucho face and credibility.
Singaporeans also accused former PM Dr Mahathir of regularly using Singapore as the bogey man to drum up domestic support for himself. On the water issue, her Foreign Minister Jayakumar had told the Singaporean parliament in 2003 that Malaysia had viewed Singapore as “insensitive, arrogant, unneighbourly, selfish, profiteering, and legalistic.”
Yes sir, you are indeed perceptive, and it may surprise you our criticisms are true too!
On the other side of the causeway, Malaysian criticisms as reflected in the New Straits Times in an article by Munir A. Majid some years ago have been about Singapore insisting on “strict legality and technicality” in order to put her own self-interest above being a constructive neighbour. That's what why I called Singapore as prone to "parminomous tight-assed legality in the re-negotiation of the water price" in an earlier posting Pulau Kiasu - Intellectual Giant or Moral Pygmy?
Hence it wasn’t surprising for an irate Dr Mahathir to lambast the current PM, Abdullah Badawi, for succumbing to wrong perceptions of international law in abandoning the construction of the scenic bridge. He dismissed Singapore’s claim that it was an act of war for Malaysia’s unilateral decision to build the crooked bridge
He claimed that his government had studied the matter carefully and that there were provisions for the relocation of the pipes supplying water to Singapore upon issuance of a six-month notice. In other words, the destruction of Malaysia’s causeway would not have interfered with the continuous supply of water which Singapore feared. As an example, he reminded us that previously, Malaysia had relocated the Singapore pipelines during the construction of new roads and railway station for the RM2.5 billion Integrated Southern Gateway project. So what has Singapore been worried about to question Malaysia’s obligation to its treaty? Maybe losing a chunk of the shipping business to Malaysia?
An emotional Dr Mahathir said bitterly: “Singapore will surely think it did not win, but Malaysia lost. I am hiding my sadness because if I were to cry like I did when I announced my resignation, I will embarrass you (reporters). So, I laugh.”
“This is because I cannot believe that before I die - and I do not know how long I have left as I am already 80 years old - the sovereignty of our country can be violated so easily. We retreated as if we surrendered our land to others.”
He has certainly stated in no unequivocal terms his disapproval of his successor.