Why is Mahathir in such a terribly indecent haste to start construction on the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge as if afraid that its plan may go awry  if there is any delay?

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaFriday): The launching of the construction of the RM1.1. billion “crooked” half bridge to replace Malaysia’s half of the Johore causeway,  which is  part of the RM2.26 billion new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex in Johore Bahru, by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday is a surprise for two reasons. 

Firstly the speed with which the project is being pushed and the  24 hours-a-day  construction of the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge, as if any delay may cause the plan to go awry, such as being replaced by a straight bridge at one-third the cost and one-third the length for the Malaysian portion. 

It was only  three weeks ago on August 1 that the Prime Minister went down to Johore Bahru to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the Public Works Department (representing the Government) and Gerbang Perdana Sdn. Bhd. for the construction of the CIQ-cum-“crooked” half-bridge project.

Why is Mahathir in such a terribly indecent haste to start construction on the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge as if afraid that its plan may go awry if there is any delay? 

Two light incidents on these two occasions, although not meant seriously, nonetheless reinforced the impression that Mahathir is in a terribly indecent haste to get the “crooked” half-bridge constructed and completed without any delay. 

The first incident  during the signing of the MOU on August 1 was reported by New Straits Times (2.8.03) as follows: 

He warned that although he might not be the Prime Minister during the scheduled completion of the project in 2005, he would still turn up to inspect the "bridge".


"We don't want to be forced to pay the sub-contractors directly by the Government. We hope that the principal contractors will manage the money that they get properly and, of course, since PWD has now advertised itself as a very efficient and up-to-date organisation, I hope not a single sen will be lost and, right on the dot, I expect to cross this bridge... if I'm still alive then. I'll be more than 80 at that time, so I may need a tongkat (walking stick).


"I'll be there with my tongkat, if I can't use the tongkat to help me walk (on the bridge), I'll use the tongkat on the people who built the bridge," he said in jest.


In the second incident yesterday, the New Straits Times reported:


Dr Mahathir, who posed several questions about the project to  (Anthon) Sebastian, ( the project’s PWD general manager) even cracked a joke, asking whether work on the project could possibly be completed before his scheduled retirement in October.

"I want to open the bridge myself. Can you all complete it by October?" he asked, much to the amusement of the over 3,000 crowd attending the function.

The second surprise was the reason given by  Mahathir yesterday for the “crooked” half-bridge. Claiming that “there is no economic interest”, Mahathir gave only one reason – environmental.

He said the Johor Causeway had prevented the water from flowing freely in the Straits of Johor, causing it to be dirty.

"There is no economic interest...we need the water to flow freely again, so leisure boats can go back and forth, without having to take a long way.” (Bernama)

In February, during the ground-breaking  ceremony for the project, Mahathir had also referred to the rising traffic volume between the two countries as a reason for the “crooked” half-bridge but  which  seems to have been quietly abandoned.

Is this because there  is no immediate urgency to start work on the “crooked” half-bridge as  the RM2 billion  Johore-Singapore Second Link  is so grossly under-utilised that it  has  become a “white elephant” with an average daily traffic volume as low as 10 per cent of its capacity of 200,000 vehicles a day. 

Isn’t it true that as a result of the low traffic volume and toll collection,  the government has to compensate the Second Link concessionaire some RM100 million since its opening  more than five years ago for the shortfall in guaranteed traffic volume and toll revenue?

Before the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge is proceeded with, the government should inform Malaysians about the full details of the award of the concession to Gerbang Perdana Sdn. Bhd., to ensure that it had learnt from  the expensive  lessons of the Johore-Signapore Second Link, where the government has to pay tens of millions of ringgit a year as compensation to the concessionaire for the shortfall in toll collection.

Recently, there was an advertisement war between Malaysia and Singapore on the water dispute between the two countries, with both governments claiming the same success in being able to make its people and those of the neighbouring country to see its point of view. 

Neither the governments nor people of the two countries had benefited from such an advertisement war, as the only beneficiaries were the media and the advertising agents with  the cost of the advertisement spat running  into  millions of ringgit.

We do not want the Malaysian and Singapore governments to have to spend some more millions of ringgit in another round of advertisement war over the “crooked” half-bridge – and the people of both Malaysia and Singapore are entitled to a full and unvarnished account as to why both governments had deviated from their earlier agreement to build a suspension bridge to replace the 80-year-old causeway.

Parliament next month should decide whether it should approve the building of a RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace the Malaysian side of the causeway, which will be a dubious  “engineering feat” to symbolize the twin failures in Malaysia-Singapore  relations and the spirit and goodwill of ASEAN to the rest of the world.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman