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Umno would rather ‘burn bridges’ than sell sand

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 17, 2009

FROM THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 – There seems to be no way around it: Umno leaders say if Singapore wants sand as part of the deal for the third bridge, it’s a “no go”.

For them, whatever the benefits the construction of the third bridge may bring must not come at the expense of the country’s sovereignty.

This issue came up when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that it would not make sense for Singapore to agree on a third bridge if Johor does not lift its ban on the export of sand to the republic, which has been in place since 1997. He was speaking at a press conference during his recent trip to Malaysia.

Government officials say Najib’s administration is willing to resolve outstanding bilateral issues with Singapore and consider lifting the ban on sale of sand to the republic.

But Najib’s efforts, ironically, may be undermined by his own party members, especially those from the southern states who appear reluctant to see Singapore expand through land reclamation with Malaysian sand.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Rembau MP said he doesn’t believe Malaysians, and especially BN-Umno, will find this “deal” acceptable.

“Although certainly Singapore will ask for some kind of trade-off, sand is very sensitive so if it were up to me, the answer would be no,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Tangga Batu Umno MP and former Deputy Higher Education Minister Idris Haron said Malaysians’ “long tolerance” of Singapore has nurtured greater hatred towards the republic.

“These grouses come from the fact that Singapore has always expected reciprocal agreements. Any prospect of getting their co-operation on something must be reciprocated,” he said.

If there is a necessity like better integration between the two nations that can be realised through building the third bridge, Idris said imposing any condition is likely to hamper the idea.

And Umno is not the only one with this view. It’s got a friend from the most unlikely of places – its arch-rival PKR is also against the sale of sand to Singapore.

PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim rejected the idea outright.

But for some, the third bridge proposal is an idea too far-fetched and the government should not even waste time discussing the sand issue.

Datuk Shahrir Samad who is the Umno parliamentarian for Johor Baru, said the government should think of ways to improve the existing bridge that links his constituency and the country to the republic instead of hollering about the third bridge.

“It’s bullshit. The government should address the many problems facing the existing bridge, like traffic congestions and so on, and not waste time on something totally unnecessary,” he said.

Shahrir said the joke is on the government when it started talking about the third bridge when the current Causeway Bridge and the Second Link have yet to be fully optimised.

Considering the strong feelings against supplying sand to Singapore, Najib now faces the  risk of alienating the Umno hardcore and their anti-Singaporean supporters.

He might not have to deal with their discontent now considering Umno’s “culture of silence” but its outcome may prove to be deadlier when the party faces the impending 13th general elections

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