Dr M pushes crooked bridge to Singapore once again
By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is not about to give up on his “crooked bridge” idea to replace the existing Causeway link to Singapore.
In fact, the wily veteran may be trying to ride the current wave of negative reaction to Singapore’s demand for sand to revive his own frozen S-shaped bridge.
After a recent official visit, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had said his government could only consider a new third link project proposed by Prime Minister Najib Razak if a 12-year ban on sand export to the island-state was lifted.
In his latest blog posting, the fiesty Dr M – known for his 22-year ham-fisted rule of the country – also fired several missiles at his successor-turned-foe Abdullah Badawi for pulling the plug on his idea launched towards the tail-end of his premiership.
“The work was started during my time. Had Abdullah not stopped it, the bridge would have been almost complete by now,” Mahathir said.
“Since Singapore would only agree to a straight bridge if one billion cubic metre of sand is sold to it; since the people of Johore are against selling sand and allowing Singapore fighter planes to practice over Johore, the option for the Malaysian Government is to revert to building the scenic bridge in our territorial waters. This is the sovereign right of an independent nation.”
Not all about sand but Dr M is striking while the iron is hot
By scenic bridge, Mahathir was referring to the curve-shape that his bridge would have to adopt.
It must be mentioned that this crooked shape came about not just because Singapore would not agree to a straight bridge unless Malaysia sold it sand, but also because Mahathir himself wanted to boost traffic between the country’s fast-rising ports at Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas.
For this to happen, the bridge replacing the Causeway must be high enough for ships to pass under it. Currently, they are forced to re-route all the way around Singapore because the Causeway is too low.
Hence, the dramatic curve shape to allow for the road to gain the necessary height needed to overcome the short distance between the two coasts.
“If the Causeway is opened up there would be constant flow of water in both direction, thus flushing out the water in the strait. Without the Causeway boats and yachts can sail in either direction.
“Transport of goods and people between Pasir Gudang Port to Tanjung Pelepas Port would be facilitated. This would be good for the growth of both ports – something which perhaps Singapore would not like to see.
“The free movements of boats along the strait would itself create business. The bridge which would be wider than the causeway would speed up the flow of traffic. The CIQ was designed to handle this increasingly heavier traffic.
Najib had proposed a totally different third link, from an eastern point in Johor linking the eastern coast of Singapore nearby Changi to tap the international airport’s traffic. The existing Causeway Bridge links Johor Baru to Woodlands while the Second Link connects Nusajaya to Tuas.
But for Najib’s idea to take off, he may have to agree to Kuan Yew’s request and lift the sand ban imposed by Mahathir in 1997, an idea that has been emotionally rejected by many in Johor. In fact, the Johor Sultan has already shot down the proposal.
Amid the politicking and as Malaysian policy-makers look for other ways to resolve the traffic woes at the new Immigration checkpoint, the ancillary infrastructure already put in to support Mahathir’s un-built crooked bridge may force a rethink of the idea described by many as “harebrained”.
Who knows the indefatigable Dr M may actually get his own way in the end – harebrained or not! But of course, the key question remains – does Malaysia need this sort of mega-project right now or would a simpler more down-to-earth solution be wiser?