Jun 27, 2009

Tun Mahathir wants Najib to use 'crooked bridge' as bargaining chip

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is not about to give up on his “crooked bridge” idea to replace the existing Causeway link to Singapore. In fact, the wily veteran may be trying to ride the current wave of negative reaction to Singapore’s demand for sand to revive his own frozen S-shaped bridge.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has stepped up his campaign to revive the idea of a crooked bridge to replace the Johore Causeway connecting Malaysia with Singapore, by calling on the government to once again use it as leverage in resolving outstanding bilateral issues with the republic.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has come under considerable pressure since he proposed a third bridge to connect the two countries earlier this month, instead of reviving Dr Mahathir’s scenic bridge proposal to replace the Malaysian portion of the Causeway.

But a number of Umno politicians have already objected to the third bridge, especially since it is likely that Singapore would want Johor to lift its ban on the sale of sand to the republic before agreeing to it.

Last week the Johore Sultan also rejected the third bridge proposal.

Writing in his blog today, Dr Mahathir said that since Singapore would only agree to a straight bridge to replace the Causeway if the ban on selling sand was lifted and that considering Johoreans were against the sale, the government’s only option was to build the crooked bridge.

“This is the sovereign right of an independent nation,” said Dr Mahathir.

The crooked bridge was the brainchild of Dr Mahathir before he left office in 2003.

His administration had decided to unilaterally build a crooked bridge and demolish the Malaysian portion of the Causeway.

But in 2006 his successor Tun Abdullah Badawi’s government decided to scrap the plan, leading to the souring of ties between the two men.

Dr Mahathir began an intense political campaign against Tun Abdullah and eventually left Umno last year, returning to the party only recently when Najib took office.

But Najib is now beginning to come under pressure from Dr Mahathir even though the latter has not openly criticised the current administration yet.

The former PM continued to single out Abdullah for blame in his blog entry today.

“Tun Abdullah decided not only to not build the bridge but to stop negotiating over all the other issues,” he wrote.

Dr Mahathir cited the package of outstanding bilateral issues, including Singapore’s refusal to release CPF contributions to Malaysians, the railway land issue and the low rate in which the island republic pays for water from Malaysia.

“All these issues are in Singapore’s favour and not negotiating better terms because the Johore people refuse to sell sand is like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

“We are the losers. I think it is a very stupid way of punishing Singapore.”

Last week, Najib said no firm decision had been made yet on whether to go ahead with the proposed third bridge.

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