A sudden twist to the crooked bridge

Updated On: Apr 14, 2006

Malaysia made a sudden announcement that it had decided to abandon its plan to build a bridge to replace the Causeway. This was announced after a Cabinet meeting on Wed (12 April) after more than 7 years of lengthy discussion. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi described the decision as a “political decision” which came as a surprise for Singapore. “We are surprised at this sudden decision when negotiations for a full bridge were ongoing,” said Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman. The turnaround of events came after negative public sentiment following Singapore’s condition on the use of Johor air space by its fighter jets and the sale of sand to the republic. “The Government’s decision was made after taking into account the voices and sentiments of the Malaysian people, especially on the supply of sand and airspace…if we proceed with the project, it will upset the people and turn the project into an endless issue,” said the Malaysian PM. According to Datuk Nur Jazlan, Malay Malaysians felt that the sale of land was detrimental to Malaysia’s sovereignty as the sand might be used to expand Singapore’s size. Another reason cited was the legal implications and complications which could arise as a result of replacing half of the Johor Causeway. “Problems will arise when we have to cut the causeway, the water pipes and railway track and connected them to the new bridge, the problems will just continue,” he said. The bridge was intended as part of the plan to transform Johor into a regional logistic centre connected by a good transportation network. Work began in early 2003 but was halted in February 2004 to enable negotiations for a full straight bridge to replace the causeway. Singapore had maintained the view that the full bridge would incur huge financial costs and little benefits for the Republic. While still reeling from the surprise announcement, the decision was welcomed by some in view of better two-way relations between Singapore and Malaysia. “I welcome the decision and hope the two countries can negotiate to resolve the other issues between us in the Asean spirit,” said Malaysian opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. However for some Malaysians, hopes were dashed. “It is a waste of our hard-earned money, especially since business has been very bad,” said businessman Lee Chuen Seng. Singaporeans contacted felt that the decision would have no impact on them but were concerned about the money that had gone to waste. The Malaysian government would compensate approximately RM100 million to the bridge contractor for scrapping the project. Abdullah had reassured the end of the negotiations on the bridge would not affect bilateral ties. “The Malaysia-Singapore relationship does not depend on the bridge. The bridge does not resolve bilateral issues between the two countries,” said Malaysia’s PM. Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo has also stressed the importance of promoting good relations. “We respect the decision of the Malaysian government. And I am sure our bilateral relations will continue to be very good. There are many areas we are cooperating and I have a very good working relationship with Syed Hamid and I hope between the two of us we can continue to promote good relations between our two countries.” Sources: Malaysia’s bridge surprise (Straits Times, 13 April 2006) M’sia halts new bridge project (Straits Times, 13 April 2006) FM George Yeo believes Singapore-Malaysia ties remain very good (Channel News Asia, 12 April 2006) Malaysia scraps plans for bridge to replace Causeway (Channel News Asia, 12 April 2006) Hopes of many dashed (The Star, 13 April 2006) Pak Lah explains why bridge called off (The Star, 13 April 2006) Scenic Bridge Saga: Negotiations will stop (New Straits Times, 13 April 2006) The ‘No Go’ Bridge (New Straits Times, 13 April 2006) PM Says Decision on Bridge Due to Legal Implications (Bernama, 12 April 2006) Johor, Kit Siang Welcome Decision on Bridge (Bernama, 12 April, 2006)