Is the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace Johore causeway the permanent symbol of the “End of Friendship” between Malaysia and Singapore when the Second Link was hailed as the “Bridge of Friendship” when agreement was reached by both governments in 1994?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): In 1994, when Malaysia and Singapore signed what was described as “a historic inter-government agreement for the design, building and maintenance” of the RM2 billion Second Link, the then Johore Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described it as “a bridge of friendship”.
On the merits of the Second Link, he said that “we need it not just for linkage, but for a lot of other economic, political and social reasons…it is a bridge of friendship…the boost to Johore would be unimaginable”.
Although the Second Link had been completed and been operational for more than five years, and grossly under-utilised, all the high hopes of it being “the bridge of friendship” and the forerunner of closer economic, social and political ties between the two countries have all come to nought, especially after the decision last week by Malaysia to unilaterally build a RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace half of the Johore causeway.
The half-bridge on the Malaysian side or half of the 900-metre Causeway to allow free passage of vessels under 25 metres (80 feet) in height to pass through the Tebrau Strait and yet join up with the existing low-level Singapore part of the causeway will be another “engineering feat”, as it will have to be a “crooked” elevated half-bridge which is curved and extended more than thrice the actual distance of .45 kilometre to 1.45-kilometre so that heavy vehicles such as lorries can cope with a maximum incline of 4.2 degrees - 1 kilometre longer than a straight bridge!
But it will not be “an engineering feat” to celebrate Malaysia-Singapore friendship or the further deepening and maturing of the ASEAN consolidation process like the European Union, but the reverse.
If the Second Link was hailed as the “Bridge of Friendship” when agreement was reached in 1994 for its construction, the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace Johore causeway must be mourned as a bridge signifying the “End of Friendship” between Malaysia and Singapore!
If the Second Link was hailed as a “triumph of ASEAN” by none other than the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at its joint opening ceremony with the Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong on April 18, 1998, then the “crooked” half-bridge must be deplored as a “failure of ASEAN” symbolizing the breakdown of meaningful ASEAN relationships.
DAP calls for good sense to prevail on both sides of the causeway and for both the Malaysian and Singapore governments to return to the negotiations table to forestall the building of a “crooked” half bridge to be a permanent memorial to symbolize the failure not only of Malaysia-Singapore statesmanship but also ASEAN statesmanship.
With the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge, every Malaysian, Singapore and even ASEAN leader would forfeit the right to stand on the world stage to take a high moral position to lecture to the rest of the world on the virtues of regional and international co-operation and development.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman