Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A bridge too far

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.

18 comments:

mamasita said...

Good morning Oldstock! You are so very right! Betul!We are not leaders yet we've got more logical brains than most of them.Apalah dalam kepala otak diaorang yer?
btw..you've got a geng here! Dato' sak cukup suka movie tu! hahaha

VersedAnggerik said...

I like Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

U reckon this is one of them?

Patricia said...

Why is it that it is so clear to you, but those that can do something about this don't see it?

That we need a bridge is obvious. That it will benefit both Malaysia and Singapore is too obvious.

Why it doesn't happen is anyone's guess!

Things like this make me feel like a child again. You know, when the 'adults' were talking, and they told us to go away and play because the discussion was not meant for our ears? This seems to be another such situation: we're not old enough to 'get it' or understand the issues!

Snakebite said...

singapore yg tanak bridge tu kan? pehal kita buat bridge takat separuh tambak johor je? jam jugak jadinya nanti.

bridge too far. operation market garden. the operation to conquer germany that failed but the allied leaders still call it a success

hanitha said...

salam bro, saya sependpt ngan patricia, y, org yg di war-war sbg pemimpin tk ble brfikir secara rasional n waras spt bro. nie la leaders yg ego n bodoh sombong (may i say that to them?) semoga mereka cepat sedar n membuat tindakan yg sepatutnya n segera demi kebaikan semua dan bersama...

hanitha said...

salam bro, msh stagnant ke? u take care hehehehe

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing on such a well written piece.

It isn't complicated, isn't it if they want to face the truth

I think it's all about our relationship with our neighbours.
They can be difficult or they can be accomodating.Why are they so ?

Then again, why are we so ? Where did it get us ?

A scenic or a crooked bridge is a joke !

allanwee

Madam Markonah said...

Well said!

Oldstock said...

Hi mamasita,

Most politicians want to make popular decisions. Those who want to make the `correct' decisions do not get to last very long (macam Dato Sak) But I guess you know this already.

I'm trying to search for a DVD of the movie to add to my collection. I'm starting this new hobby of buying DVDs of the good movies that I watched years ago. Recently, I found `Bad Boys' starring a young Sean Penn. This is the original Bad Boys movie, not the one starring Will Smith and martin Lawrence.

Oldstock said...

Verse,

At one time, I liked that Simon & Garfunkel song but as years passed, I do not like it as much. I think the song is too slooooow.... hehehe..

Oldstock said...

Pat,

The view on this subject is split, especially here in Johor. As the saying goes, there is more to it than meets the eye. Not everything relating to the negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore is made public. When this is so, speculations are bound to arise.

But it is not the end of the story yet. So far, I note that both Najib and Muhyiddin have been non-commital on the matter.

Oldstock said...

Snake,

I don't think Singapore does not actually want the bridge. I can only speculate (stress the speculate part), that they would agree to a bridge but if other terms are included in the discussions.

So what do you reckon is the lesson to be learnt from Operation Market Garden? I would put it simply as, `Jangan terlalu ghairah.' Maybe too simplistic but a great movie none the less :-)

Oldstock said...

Hanitha,

Saya ni waras pada masa-masa tertentu... ada masa pun buat kerja gila jugak.... heheheh.

Sori tak sempat nak update blog. Posting baru setakat letak youtube video je...

Oldstock said...

To the administrator of mylivingwall,

Thank you for the link. I believe this the second time a post of mine has been linked to your site.

Oldstock said...

Allan Wee,

Thanks for the comment.

When this issue of the crooked bridge cropped up years ago, it brought to my mind the story of the Channel Tunnel, the one dug underneath the English Channel to link Britian and France.

In medieval times, these two countries were at war with each other. Even in modern times, you can hardly say that the French like their neighbours across the channel. Those of us who have been to Paris will testify that the French are not bothered to speak English at all.

But when it comes to building something that has mutual benefit, they can sit down, discuss and agree.

Oldstock said...

Madam,

Thank you.

hanitha said...

salam bro, semoga missus cepat sembuh ek.. jaga intan payung tu elok2...