Ongoing bridge negotiations are held up for closer scrutiny earlier this week on the Malaysian side, exposing some of the internal tensions amongst different factions and interests on the issue, which inevitably complicates the bilateral negotiations.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar spoke out strongly on Tuesday (March 21) in defense of his loyalty to the country. Speaking to the local press, Minister Syed commented that it was “very offensive” for anybody to suggest that all those involved in negotiations with Singapore had not acted faithfully and loyally for the good and interest of Malaysia. He warned that his attempts to secure Singapore's cooperation on the project should not be interpreted as a sign ofMalaysia’s weakness.
The Minister’s remarks came at a time where different factions on the Malaysian side are openly voicing their disapproval over the direction of the bridge negotiations.
Sabah MP, Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, warned Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo not to interfere with Malaysia’s affairs. “It is the most biadap (insolent) neighbour in the world. Our (foreign) ministry is still being soft.” Elsewhere, Umno Johor's information chief, Senator Puad Zarkashi, maintained that the state leaders now want the government to build only the ‘scenic’ bridge.
In a Malay press interview earlier this week, Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd’s (contractor for the ‘scenic’ bridge) managing director Datuk Yahya Jalil was quoted as urging the Government not to accede to the republic’s request for sand and the use of airspace over Johor in exchange for a bridge to replace the Causeway. The greater issue, Yahya insisted, is “Malaysia’s pride and dignity.”
Minister Syed was quick to put down Yahya, stating the latter has “no right to debate these options.”
“We should let the Government decide on the options. Any decision must be made by the Government,” he said. “Our negotiations are meant for us to arrive at a broad-based political agreement. We have not sold out on anything.”
Don't Question My Loyalty Over Bridge Issue, Says Syed Hamid (Bernama, March 21, 2006)
Two KL MPs call S'pore 'insolent' (The Straits Times, March 22, 2006)
Let Government resolve bridge issue, contractor told (The Star, March 22, 2006)