by Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
July 03, 2010
The crooked bridge will not be built. There have been no talks to revive the project.
The Najib administration has no intentions of reviving the crooked bridge project proposed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed to replace the Johor Causeway, according to Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s department said the government will stick to the decision reached during Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration.
“The decision of the current government administration stands and follows the decision made by the previous administration, under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The crooked bridge will not be built. There have been no talks to revive the project,” Nazri told The Malaysian Insider.
He pointed out bluntly that the government “cannot simply react” to news reports on individuals pushing for its renewal, and stressed that agreements and requests from various parties still needed to be considered before the project could be revived. We cannot simply react to reports on the news media. There has to be an official request from the Johor state government (for the revival of the bridge) and Singapore has to also first agree to this. The Singaporean government has not agreed to this. So it’s difficult on so many levels to go ahead with the project, said the law minister.
“During his time, Dr Mahathir had wanted the bridge to be built to ease the congestion of the Causeway. But Singapore did not agree to it (even) back then,” explained the Padang Rengas MP. The government’s decision comes amid calls by Dr Mahathir and the Sultan of Johor to revive the abandoned project. The former prime minister has questioned Najib’s reluctance in continuing the project despite a request by the Sultan of Johor for Putrajaya for to revive the replacement for the Causeway that was built in 1923.
“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 two days’ ago. 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.
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.
Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed claimed that Dr Mahathir was nit-picking and that the real reason why he had brought the matter up was because he was “unhappy” with the latest agreements made between Malaysia and Singapore. “Dr Mahathir is just not happy with the latest Singapore deal. What is the real value of the (crooked) bridge? On a cost basis it won’t make sense to revive the project,” Nur Jazlan told The Malaysian Insider.
The Umno man claimed that even if an alternative bridge were to be built, it would not solve the traffic congestion in the Johor causeway. There will still be traffic jams on peak hours at the Causeway, the crooked bridge won’t change that,” he said.
The Pulai MP said the government was already making adjustments to the Causeway to allow more cars and smalls boat, ferries to travel from Johor to Singapore. They are already digging a channel to connect the left side of the Causeway to the right side, this will allow cars, boats, ferries to utilise this channel,” said Nur Jazlan.
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 next August 1.
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 develop the land that is left behind.
However, the issue of the crooked bridge or 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.