Malaysia and Singapore, just like any other country that neighbour each other have their disputes. There's that issue of water supply which is now
somewhat resolved (I think). Then there's Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca), a rock in the middle of the South China Sea that both countries claim.
That issue has been submitted to the International Court of Justice and will be heard next year. Use of Malaysian airspace by Singaporean aircraft is
another issue that is often flown (pun intended).
Now we have this bridge dispute. This isn’t a recent issue. It has been going on for
quite some years now. A little over 6 or 7 years, I’m not so certain… I wasn’t interested in politics back then. There have been talks,
proposals, more talks, more negotiations, talks again… it hasn’t really gone anywhere.
The problem is a simple one. Malaysia wants to replace the 80-year old causeway with a spanking new bridge. Singapore appears uninterested.
Malaysia says the new bridge will allow water to flow again in the Straits of Johor, thereby improving the marine ecology and reducing the stagnation
and the stench. Malaysia also hopes the new bridge will reduce traffic congestion in Johor Bahru, which is across the causeway from Singapore.
Singapore’s objection is over the cost of building a new bridge as opposed to adding lanes to the existing causeway. At least that’s all the info
that I could find.
Before I continue, let me provide some background as to why it’s called ‘the crooked bridge’
Malaysia, Singapore nearing end to bridge dispute
In 2000, when Singapore rejected Malaysia's proposal to jointly build a new bridge to replace an existing ageing causeway, former premier Mahathir
Mohamad came up with the idea of what became known as "the crooked half-bridge".
The 1.45 kilometre (0.9 mile) half-bridge would carry an eight-lane highway some 25 metres (82 feet) above the strait before curving and descending
gently to link up with the causeway from Singapore at the border between the two countries.Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
These days the media on the Malaysian side are calling it ‘the scenic bridge’, because ‘crooked’ obviously have negative connotations. At any
rate, early this year Malaysia announced that it would proceed unilaterally with it’s half of the bridge. This didn’t sit too well with
Half-Bridge Can Have Serious Implications, Says S'pore
SINGAPORE, March 2 (Bernama) -- Singapore reiterated Thursday that any unilateral move by Malaysia to demolish its half of the causeway and replace it
with a half-bridge will bring about serious implications, "however scenic" the bridge may be.
Foreign Minister George Yeo said today the republic had explained the matter to Kuala Lumpur through a third party note.
"We have explained to Malaysia the serious implications of a unilateral move by Malaysia to demolish its side of the causeway and replace it with a
crooked bridge, however scenic," he said in Parliament.Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
Unfortunately the article didn’t do a good job at explaining what the ‘serious implications’ were. Instead it went on talking about ‘low
hanging fruits’ (??)
No matter, negotiations went on and it appeared that the end to the dispute was near (see the first article by AFP above, or the one by Reuters
Malaysia, Singapore near pact to end spats –report
KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 (Reuters) - Malaysia and Singapore have moved closer to resolving longstanding disputes, including a row over a bridge to
replace a causeway linking the two nations, news agency Bernama said on Sunday.
This comes amid warmer ties between the two Southeast Asian states. Both sides have been locked in protracted talks over a number of bilateral issues,
ranging from the supply of drinking water to the use of railway land.
"In principle, there have been several agreements achieved. Now we need to go into the details and make the agreements final," Bernama quoted
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar as saying in Malaysia's Johor state bordering Singapore.Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
Or so it seemed. Personally I don’t know what’s going on anymore. Read the headlines, you’ll understand what I mean:
March 13, No compromise on sovereignty
- Because Singapore requested sale of sand and use of Malaysian airspace to ‘sweeten the deal’
March 18, Bridge differences to keep good ties, Singapore
- The article didn’t say much, but from the tone of it, I’d surmise that the talks didn’t go so well
Understandably, this has gotten Malaysian MPs a bit peeved. Read on in the next snippet from a news piece that’s not exactly about the issue:
MPs Question AirAsia's Commitment To Nation's Interest
Badruddin said it was time for Malaysia to be firm with the city-state and not simply follow its dictates.
"They want water, we give water...they want durian, we give durian...they want durian without the skin, we give and throw the skin in Johor. Enough
"They were once part of Malaysia. Now they want to teach us. If we keep entertaining them we will end up the losers," he said.
Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) said the question of selling sand or opening Malaysia's airspace did not arise after Malaysia decided it would
proceed with a crooked bridge, now called the "scenic bridge".
"We want to tell the government, there is no need to think any more.
"We just go ahead with the crooked bridge, no need to worry about whether we have to sell sand or open up our airspace as the conditions set by
Singapore are for a straight bridge," he said.Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
Actually there are a lot more vocal remarks in that article. I just didn’t want to aggravate any Singaporeans here on the boards. The issue is out
of the hands of both nations’ citizens.
After all those articles, we can summarize the situation as follows:
1. Malaysia wants to replace the 80 year old causeway with a new bridge.
Reasons given are –
2. Singapore is reluctant to replace the causeway with a bridge.
- To improve the marine ecology by allowing the water in the Straits of Johor to flow
- To reduce traffic congestion in Johor Bahru
Reasons given are –
3. Negotiations between the two countries are underway, but it is not moving anywhere
4. Malaysia has decide to proceed with it’s half of the bridge unilaterally
- Cost is higher than simply upgrading the causeway
- Unspecified environmental concerns
So what is all the fuss? Why is Singapore reluctant to cooperate with Malaysia in building a new bridge? Why are they stalling?
It’s not specified anywhere in the media, but I think the reasons are simple. The causeway has basically dammed up the Straits for a little over 80
years now. As a result, shipping traffic has to go around
Singapore to get from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Singapore gets a lot of revenue from shipping traffic. Removing this dam/causeway will cause traffic to divert through the Straits of Johor, reducing
traffic to Singapore and possibly increasing traffic to her rival port across the Strait. Both situations are not favourable to Singapore.
What will the end result be then? I honestly can’t say. All I’m sure of is that Singapore will not willingly cooperate, if my theory is right.
Fellow ATSer, what do you think? To any Singaporean members out there, what do you think?
Related Internet Links
Wikipedia - Straits of Johor
Sun2Surf - A bridge that stirs troubled waters
New Straits Times - Syed Nadzri: Making too many
[edit - I can't seem to resize AND align the pic...]
[edit on 23-3-2006 by Beachcoma]