Jun 30, 2010

Tun Mahathir renews pressure on Najib to revive crooked bridge

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pressed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today to revive the crooked bridge he had proposed to replace the Johor Causeway connecting Malaysia and Singapore.

The former prime minister questioned Najib’s reluctance in continuing the project despite a request by the Sultan of Johor for Putrajaya for its revival.

“The question that many have asked me, and I am convinced that this is also being asked by a majority of people, is why Datuk Seri Najib as the powerful prime minister is not willing to continue building this bridge?” asked Dr Mahathir in a posting on his popular blog today.

“Is Najib tied in a deal with the fifth prime minister? What is the status of this deal?” he added, referring to former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi who had cancelled the crooked bridge project.

The proposal to build a “crooked” bridge to replace the ageing Causeway, linking peninsular Malaysia to the island republic, was mooted by Dr Mahathir when he was the prime minister.

However, relations between the two countries were often chilly during his administration, causing Singapore to shoot down his idea which was eventually cancelled by his successor Abdullah.

Besides easing traffic congestion between Johor Baru and Singapore, the proposed bridge would also facilitate the free flow of water in the Tebrau Straits in addition to allowing ships heading to East Asia to bypass Singapore.

“I have never heard objections from Malaysians towards the bridge project in replacing the Johor Causeway,” said Dr Mahathir.

“There is also a letter from the previous prime minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, that was published by the Singaporean government in the book ‘Water Talks – If Only It Could’ that he never objected the building of the bridge in Malaysian waters if it was so desired by the Malaysian government,” he added.

In response to the Sultan of Johor's call for the bridge project to be revived, Najib had said that his administration would look into the matter but did not elaborate further.

At Najib's recent meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a month ago, both leaders had decided to reduce toll charges at the Second Link, one of two bridges linking Malaysia and Singapore, by 30 per cent starting August 1 this year.

Aside from the toll rate announcement, the two prime ministers had also agreed to move the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) station from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (WTCP) by July 1, 2011, as well as setting up a joint venture company called M-S Pte Ltd, to jointly develop the land that is left behind.

However, the issue of the crooked bridge or a third bridge was not discussed in their meeting.

Najib had mooted the idea of a third bridge linking the republic to Malaysia in June last year, which he said could enable the development of the eastern side of Johor and districts like Mersing and Desaru.

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