Will Mahathir pursue the Crooked Bridge project?

TTF: When the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unanimously undertook to scrap the RM1.1 billion crooked half-bridge project, Dr Mahathir Mohamad blew his top and accused Khairy Jamaluddin of influencing his father in-law. Then, on the 19th of April 2006, Lim Kit Siang wrote the following (in orange):

“I fully agree with Abdullah and applaud him for this courageous decision to  cancel the unilateral construction of the crooked half-bridge which would not be “one of the wonders of the world” but a symbol of shame and failure of Malaysia-Singapore bilateral relations as well as the ASEAN community and spirit although he could be faulted for not taking it earlier or even more serious, for his sudden tough public stance only two months ago that the crooked half bridge, euphemistically dubbed the “Scenic Bridge”, would be constructed  regardless if it was ‘lurus, bengkok ataupun herot’ (straight, crooked or skewed).

The crooked bridge was an idea mooted by Mahathir in 2001. Then the Prime Minister, he never kept secret his hatred for Singapore and constantly bickered with his southern counterpart on just about everything. The bridge proposition was a major point of contention between the duo as it was deemed a transgression of Johor-Singapore water agreements 1961 and 1962, the Wayleave Agreements and the Separation Agreement 1965.

In a televised interview held in April 2015, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak disclosed (in orange, below) that his decision to uphold Abdullah’s position on the project was the chief reason his relationship with Mahathir suffered:

“He (Dr Mahathir) had two things he wanted me to do. He wanted me to do away with BR1M and the Johor crooked bridge,” adding, “I respect Tun, just like I respect all the people.

“I gave my views on these issues. I see it as discussions between two individuals… It is quite healthy to have a difference in opinion, but in the end, I still have to be accountable to the rakyat and the party.

“Most of these issues were brought to Cabinet and Cabinet will decide on it.” 

Mahathir referred to the Najib administration as “cowardly” for not pursuing the project. He accused the Prime Minister of allowing Singapore to bully Malaysia by dictating what we could or could not do. The strained relations between the two led to years of spite-filled campaigns by Mahathir that demonised Najib and undermined just about every other initiative the latter undertook to pursue.

Among these initiatives was Najib’s decision to open the country’s doors wider to China and the signing of some 144 billion ringgit (USD36 billion) deals with the northern republic. But it wasn’t until Proton sold a sizeable chunk of its assets to Geely that Mahathir raged with fury. He began accusing Najib of “selling the country to China” and claimed that the economy was “going to the dogs.” But now that he’s back in power, things seem to have changed.

No more is he abrasive towards China or feels that Malaysia overstated its commitment to the northern republic. The about-turn became manifest when he announced earlier today that the government would honour existing contracts with China and would only undertake to “renegotiate” some of them. It seems that the newly minted Pakatan Harapan administration has no qualms about reentering the era of Mahathirism despite it being Lim Kit Siang who once cautioned us that Mahathir is someone who listened only to Mahathir.

Well, could it be that they now feel the old man has changed?

If that were to be the case, Mahathir is due to meet his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, tomorrow (see news item below). Are we to expect that he will consider what Kit Siang groused about on the 19th of April 2006, or can we expect him to pop up the bridge idea all over again, an idea that is likely to be worth some RM5 billion by today’s standards?

Seriously, after all the talk of wanting to ‘save’ the nation from “going to the dogs,” will Mahathir make yet another attempt to transgress existing agreements between Singapore and Malaysia and, in the process, identify our people as being a morally and ethically perverse lot?

Only time will tell.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that no topics of discussion have been fixed for his meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tomorrow.

“We haven’t fixed any subject. We will have a discussion, and if he raises any issues, we will discuss them,” Tun Dr Mahathir told reporters yesterday.

“But at the moment, I am still trying to figure out our stand with regard to certain issues, which is not finalised yet. So, I cannot tell you what I will discuss with Hsien Loong,” he said.

Dr Mahathir was asked what he and PM Lee would discuss when they meet, and whether the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) would be on the agenda.

He was at a press conference at Yayasan Selangor, after a meeting of the Pakatan Harapan presidential council, the top decision-making body of the coalition in government after the May 9 election.

PM Lee had told Singapore’s Parliament on Wednesday about his planned meeting with Dr Mahathir, adding: “I will tell him that I look forward to working with him again for mutual benefit.”

Dr Mahathir had, during the campaign and last Saturday, said that his new government will review all foreign contracts and projects, including the HSR and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

Construction on the 350km HSR was expected to start next year, with trains running between both cities by 2026.

As for the ECRL, ground was broken last August on the project which links Port Klang in Selangor with Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with completion targeted for 2024. It is being built and funded by Chinese state companies.

Asked about such Chinese investments yesterday, Dr Mahathir said: “We have made clear that we want to look into all these contracts again because they are very costly for the government and we will incur huge debts which we cannot pay.”

“But we will respect all agreements,” he added.

As for whether he would bring up the ongoing probe into scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB with PM Lee, Dr Mahathir said: “He has said that he will be helpful, and if there is a need for me to ask him for help, I will shout ‘help’.”

The Singapore authorities said on Wednesday that they are fully prepared to extend further assistance to their Malaysian counterparts on 1MDB-related transactions.

Source: The Straits Times 

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