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Hard-line stance curving ‘scenic bridge’ negotiations

Updated On: Mar 21, 2006

As Singapore and Malaysia prepare to fine-tune their consensus reached last week on the ‘scenic bridge’ issue, the latter – supported by local media discourses – has taken a hard line stance that dispels any notion of state acquiescence.

At a press interview on March 17, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Najib Tun Razak asserted that “it is our right, as a sovereign country, to continue with the bridge project. No one can deny us that right.” DPM Najib also stated that if Singapore decided not to be part of the project, the Malaysian link would join up with the existing causeway on the republic’s side (The Star, March 18). 

Noting an undisclosed time-frame acknowledged by both countries, DPM Najib advises that Singapore should think “long and hard” on the importance of maintaining good relations with its neighbour. But he also tempers his stance by calling for both sides to be “united” and rely on the bridge as a “symbol of cooperation.”

Elsewhere, Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir Samad urged the Government to discontinue negotiations with Singapore if the republic remained “arrogant” (The Star, March 19). “We have already negotiated for two years but during this point we have been threatened,” he said. 

Details revealed by the local media (The Star) add perspective to the urgency of the issue and why Malaysia had decided to proceed with the bridge constructions without Singapore.

The Malaysian government had signed an RM1.113 billion agreement with Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd in May 2003 for a 1.2km cable-stayed bridge to be constructed halfway across the waterway, and which was scheduled for completion at the end of 2005 (The Star, March 18). Constructions were stalled however, as Prime Minister Abdullah permitted a ‘cooling period’ from February 2004 to January this year for further negotiations with Singapore when he took office.

After five rounds of negotiations and the resulting 23-month delay, The Star reveals on March 18 that the government will incur an additional RM70 million for the re-scheduled completion date of April 2009. 

“The clock,” as The Star reports on March 19, “has started ticking.” “Singapore has about a year to join in the building of the ‘scenic bridge’ before works on the Malaysian side of the project pass ‘the point of no return.’” 

Sources:

Bridge differences to keep good ties, Singapore told (The Star,18 March 2006)

Bridge delay costs RM70m (The Star, 18 March 2006)

Consensus on M'sia-S'pore issues to be ironed out at technical meeting (Bernama,18  March 2006)

Singapore has one year to make up mind (The Star, 19 March 2006)