Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Malaysian Bridge of Sand

From the office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia:

Kerajaan Malaysia telah memutuskan untuk tidak meneruskan pembinaan jambatan bagi menggantikan Tambak Johor. Keputusan Kerajaan ini dibuat setelah mengambil kira suara dan sentimen rakyat Malaysia keseluruhannya terutama berkenaan bekalan pasir dan ruang udara. Kerajaan juga membuat keputusan untuk memberhentikan semua rundingan bersabit dengan jambatan tersebut.

Rough translation

The government of Malaysia has decided not to continue with the construction of the bridge to replace the Johor causeway. The government has made this decision after taking into account the overall views and sentiments of the Malaysian people, in particular with regards to the issues of supply of sand and the Malaysian air space. The government has decided to halt all new proposals for the bridge.


The New Straits Times has reported that the Malaysian Works Ministry has ordered Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd, the contractor of the scenic bridge to stop work immediately.

Several issues surround the bridge controversy – Malaysian Railways’ possession of land in Singapore, price of water supplied by Malaysia to Singapore, Singapore’s clamour for supply of sand from Malaysia and the use of Malaysian airspace for its military planes, and the general animosity and suspicion between the 2 countries.

The PM has virtually said in the media release that we won’t build the bridge because our people don’t want to sell sand to Singapore nor permit its air force to zoom around in our Malaysian airspace. While I can understand the latter (and we don’t have to account for our refusal to let the SAF use it), I really don’t see why we can’t sell sand to Singapore, unless of course we harbour a malicious attitude towards it development.

But still, the only thing to bring about this embarrassing back-down by Malaysia would have to be legal restraints rather than just sand. Maybe our legal rights to smash our section of the international causeway had been constructed like a sand castle, now all wash away by a legal wave?

Abdul Razak Baginda from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre put on the best spin for the back-pedal by saying: "Had we gone ahead with the bridge unilaterally, it would be a symbol of our inability to negotiate and a symbol of our acrimonious relationship with Singapore. Now that Malaysia has shown goodwill, Singapore has to reciprocate."

He was probably referring to the sticky water price issue. Even as a Malaysian I don’t see why Singapore would back down on that, when the proposed bridge and its abandonment were entirely Malaysia’s decisions. Of course we ordinary citizens don’t know what the hell is going on behind all those ‘faces’ – ‘face’ mentioned as a double entendre.

Across the now-safe causeway the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed surprise over Malaysia's abrupt decision to scrap the construction of the bridge, especially when negotiations for a full bridge were still ongoing. I have to wonder about their surprise.

Meanwhile Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Syed Hamid was another person who had to put on his best face. When asked if the decision was in the country’s best interest, the minister responded bravely: “The government never makes a decision that does not serve the nation’s interest.”

I have the embarassed feeling that Malaysia's nose has been right royally tweaked by Singapore again.

But then, what about the RM1.2 billion customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) complex that has already been built? When queried whether this could turn out to be another Malaysian white elephant [Thailand, eat your heart out!] UMNO MP for Johor Baru, Shahrir Samad said rather sarcastically “Maybe it could be used as the Johor Baru MP’s office.”

But he added that the money saved from the halted construction of the bridge should be used to enhance the road system in Johor to ease traffic congestion.

Then one final question to the MP on what lesson could the government learn from this episode, brought this reply: “Plan well and think ahead”.


Pulau Kiasu - Intellectual Giant or Moral Pygmy?

1 comment:

  1. This episode should teach our leaders to think properly before saying anything. Dr Mahathir was so frustrated by the seemingly uncooperative nature of Singapore's government that in a fit of anger proudly proclaimed that Malaysia can demolish its side of the Causeway without Singapore's agreement. This unfortunately, was later found to be untrue because of the separation agreement signed. Fortunately there was a change in Malaysia's leadership and a new leader is able issue the stop order without creating too much red-face. Imagine what would have happened if Dr Mahathir is still in power with the rakyat is dead against pawning Malaysia's sovereignty. He would have been in a fixed - unable to continue with the scenic bridge and at the same time unable to issue stop-work order. That would have been more disastrous!

    My blog:
    The Scenic Bridge
    The Scenic Bridge no more