Nov 6, 2006

Johor Causeway Will Remain, Says PM

ISLAMABAD, Nov 5 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Sunday the Johor Causeway built during the British colonial administration would remain as it is.

"At present, we have to use the causeway. It is true that ships can pass (through the strait) if the causeway is not there," he told Malaysian journalists covering his three-day official visit to Pakistan from Saturday.

Abdullah said the focus of the government now was on efforts to develop the southern Johor region for the benefit of Johor and the country.

The prime minister was asked to comment on a statement by Sultan Iskandar of Johor that the causeway should be removed to enable ships to use the Tebrau Strait that separates Johor and Singapore.

The sultan, speaking at the launch of the South Johor Economic Region (SJER) project, now called the Iskandar Development Region project, in Teluk Danga Saturday, said the causeway prevented ships from passing through the Tebrau Strait.

Asked whether he was surprised by the statement by the Sultan of Johor, Abdullah said: "I was not surprised."

Abdullah said the development of the southern Johor region could provide more opportunities to the people of Johor to increase investment and trade and step up economic activities in the area that would bring "ripple effect" benefits for the whole country.

The Iskandar Development Region would serve as a catalyst for the country's economic growth, he said.

"The region will be the sole massive development area that will make it one of the largest economic growth and trading areas of Southeast Asia," he said.

Asked to comment on a statement by Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad on the possibility of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's criticisms against the government being debated at next week's Umno general assembly if the matter was contained in his policy speech as party president, Abdullah said his speech for the assembly was not ready yet.

"My policy speech is not ready yet. Therefore, I do not want to make any comments now," he said.

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