Sultan says ‘no’

Malay Mail

All indications are pointing to the scrapping of the controversial third Johor-Singapore link proposal. Almost immediately after it was first mooted, the proposal met with a torrent of rumblings.

And the latest objection from Johor’s Sultan Iskandar has raised more questions whether the proposed construction of the third bridge on the eastern side of the State will ever see daylight.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak responded that the government had not even conducted a feasibility study on the proposal; but unknown to many, the proposal may have well been “killed off” by Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew himself, even before Sultan Iskandar opposed it.

Lee was quoted by the Singapore Straits Times on June 12 – just two days after he had voiced the republic’s interest in building the bridge with the Malaysian government when he visited Najib in Putrajaya – as saying that it did not make sense to cooperate on the third bridge if Johor does not lift its ban on the export of sand to the republic, which has been in place since 1997.

“The third bridge from Changi, it’s for technical discussions. It does not make sense to us if at the same time, they punish us by making us barge sand from Vietnam.

“It’s no benefit to them; it’s just to cause us extra losses. So, if it is cooperation, it must be across the board and the final balance must be fair on both sides and not just in specific, selective areas.”

Political analysts who spoke to Malay Mail last night felt that Lee’s statement had clearly indicated Singapore was using the bridge as a bargaining chip to get sand.

“It is unlikely that the Malaysian government can meet this demand. Effectively, Lee, who had voiced Singapore’s interest in building the bridge with Malaysia, had himself killed off the proposal,” said an analyst.

That, according to him, could explain the “eeriely muted” reaction from the leaders on the other side of the Causeway. Equally muted were the Singaporean media which only reported Sultan Iskandar’s objection.

Even Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia T. Jasudasen declined to comment when contacted by yesterday. Another analyst said Lee’s remarks could be viewed as holding Malaysia to ransom.

“The proposal was made by him in a friendly spirit, and yet, the demands are anything but friendly.”

Bernama quoted Najib, who was in Samarahan, Sarawak, yesterday, as saying that the matter was still at the proposal stage, and that an in-depth study must be carried out before implementing it to determine whether it would benefit both countries.

“There is no final decision on the matter yet as we have to see whether the third bridge project is viable.”

The Prime Minister said there was still a lot of time to discuss the matter with Sultan Iskandar and the Johor government to find the best solution if the proposed project were to proceed. Najib also said no party had been appointed to do a feasibility study as the project must first be agreed to by Singapore.