‘I’m a nobody, why would LKY meet me?’
Sarcasm oozed out of every pore when reporters posed a question pertaining to Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The 84-year-old statesman was asked if he would meet the Singaporean behemoth, who is a year older, if the latter requested for a meeting with him.
Lee is currently on an eight-day visit to Malaysia.
Mahathir said even if the former Singaporean premier requested a meeting, he would not meet him, and on the same note, added that he saw no reason why Lee would consider such a thing.
“No, I don’t see why he would request to see me. I am nobody,” he said.
On Lee meeting with Malaysian opposition leaders, Mahathir replied that he could meet anyone he likes.
“He has a lot of experience. Our politicians know nothing, so that is why we have to learn from Singapore.
“Singapore is a great country, it invests so much money (in Malaysia),” he said.
During Mahathir’s 22-year reign, bilateral ties between the two neighbouring states was often on the rocks.
However, the relationship became rosier after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded Mahathir in 2003, a development which the latter sarcastically attributed to the new premier’s penchant for playing golf.
Sand and bridge
Meanwhile, Mahathir was also quizzed on another touchy subject – bridge.
When asked what he thought about the proposed third bridge between Malaysia and Singapore, he said: “If we give them sand, then we can get the bridge.”
Mahathir, who was instrumental in Abdullah’s early exit from power, had reportedly fumed when his successor decided to scrap the crooked bridge project.
This, according to observers, was the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back and set Mahathir on the warpath with Abdullah.
In early 2000, Mahathir proposed for the 86-year-old causeway to be replaced by a bridge.
However, when bilateral disagreements threatened to derail the plan, Mahathir decided to push ahead with a ‘crooked’ bridge above Malaysian waters to be connected to Singapore’s side of the causeway.
Last month, Abdullah’s successor and Mahathir’s protege Najib Abdul Razak had proposed a straight bridge to link the two nations.
The bridge, which would be built on the eastern side of Johor, would be the third link between the two countries.
Malaysia and Singapore are already connected by a bridge on the western side of Johor, called the Second Link, built to overcome traffic congestion in the causeway.
While Singapore is reportedly receptive to this idea, Mahathir is said to have found the notion a little peeving.
Not a pressing need
However, Johor Bahru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad said the third bridge was not a feasible idea.
The Umno leader, who is known to be closely aligned to Abdullah, said the bridge is not of pressing urgency.
“In my view, the construction of the bridge is not a necessity. Instead, the government should upgrade the effectiveness of the ferry services and promote commuters to use water transportation.
“The government’s priority should be building a new bridge to replace the causeway in the city to overcome the traffic congestion,” he was quoting as saying by Bernama.