The change in our country's leadership and ministerial line-up has caused some parties to use the opportunity to raise old issues. It seems that the Malaysian Indian Congress is still harping on more cabinet representation, to the extent of issuing veiled threats of pulling out of the BN if their requests are not met. At the Johor state level, I would think that Johor UMNO members would feel pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister is a Johorean.
This post of mine, however, touches on the subject of the `crooked' bridge that was to replace the almost century-old Johor Causeway. Apparently, Johor UMNO Youth has called for this project to be revived. I was alerted on this news by Nuraina Samad's blog post yesterday and the same subject was picked up by The Ancient Mariner today. I left comments at the two blogs but I thought I could expand on my views by putting up this post.
As a Johor Bahru resident and a frequent traveler on the Causeway, it is impossible for me not to discuss this crooked bridge issue. In 1996, when former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir announced plans that a new bridge would be built to replace the causeway, I was quite excited. The traffic jams at the causeway were becoming unbearable. Although another bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore was being built at that time (The Second Link), it is located too far from the city to be of convenience.
Sadly, the collapse of bi-lateral negotiations saw the Singapore side disagreeing to the new bridge. Malaysia was insistent on building it and went ahead to engage a turnkey contractor to prepare the design of a bridge that would replace its half of the causeway. In order to maintain an acceptable road gradient but at the same time to allow headroom for small boats to pass under, the bridge had to take a long and crooked route. My first thought when I saw the artist's impression of the proposed bridge was that it was UGLY. Some joker had this bright idea of calling it the `Scenic Bridge'.
When Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister, he scrapped the bridge portion of the project but the new CIQ complex proceeded as planned. This scrapping raised the wrath of his predecessor and TDM became a thorn in Pak Lah's administration throughout the latter's short reign as PM.
I supported Pak Lah's decision to cancel the crooked bridge project although I suspect the real reasons for the cancellation were not revealed. If the bridge had been built, it would've become testimony of sour relations for years to come. Our children and grandchildren would have wondered why in heaven's name that leaders of the past could not have sat down and agreed to do a proper, decent and beautiful bridge.
I do, however, agree that the causeway need to be replaced... but replace it with a proper bridge please. A straight bridge that is built with the consent and support of both sides. A functional bridge that also carry the KTM railway line and the PUB water pipelines. One that has adequate road decks to support traffic for the next 50 years. A link that benefit both countries. If both parties cannot negotiate and agree to build it jointly, then we shall have the Causeway remain as it is, perhaps for the next 100 years.
Much has been said about the strained relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. But the sourness of any particular situation is actually dependent on the personalities in power at the point in time. I'm sure our leaders (and Singapore's as well), if not now then those in power in future, would find ways to resolve this issue. The mutual benefits are obvious... we don't need to study the detail traffic data to know that more Singapore-registered vehicles come to JB than the other way round.
A bridge is built to link two sides. It is a form of communication. It improves relationships. As the popular saying goes... build bridges, not walls.
The relationship between Johor and Singapore is closer than most people think. I say... go ahead and build the bridge. But do it for the right reasons. Not because of political pressure, or to enrich some cronies, or simply to spite our neighbours. Put aside egoistical and emotional considerations. Build the bridge because it is what the nation needs and not for anything else.
Footnote : A Bridge Too Far is my all-time favourite World War 2 movie. Produced in 1977, it had an ensemble cast that included Sean Connery, James Caan, Edward Fox, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford and Lawrence Olivier.