Sunday, September 4, 2005

"Malaysia has waited too long for Singapore to respond. We have no choice but go it alone"

Malaysia to build half a bridge over troubled waters: report

Last Update: Sunday, September 4, 2005. 7:18pm (AEST)

It is reported that Malaysia will start work on a controversial new bridge halfway to Singapore, even though its neighbour has yet to announce plans to build the other half over the waterway which separates them.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has given the "thumbs up" to the new bridge and Singapore would be told Tuesday of the decision in bilateral meetings, the New Straits Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

The newspaper said the new bridge on the Malaysian side had been designed to allow Singapore to link up to it later - a move that would apparently leave the bridge half-built across the Johor Strait.

"Malaysia has waited too long for Singapore to respond. We have no choice but go it alone," said a source.

While other bilateral feuds have been settled amidst thawing relations in the past year, the construction of a bridge across the narrow strait remains a thorny issue.

Malaysia's decision was prompted by the near-completion of a new 1.1 billion ringgit ($346 million) customs, immigration and quarantine complex in the southern state of Johor which faces Singapore, said the newspaper.

Malaysia wants traffic to flow to the new complex.

"We have no choice but go it alone because work on the new CIQ complex in Johor Baru is reaching an advanced state of completion," said the source.

Technical details of the bridge will be shown to Singapore on Tuesday at the bilateral meetings in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital, said the newspaper.

In 2000, when Singapore rejected Malaysia's proposal for a bridge to replace the 80-year-old causeway now linking the two, then-premier Mahathir Mohamad came up with the idea of what became known as "the crooked half-bridge".

The 1.45 kilometre half-bridge would have carried an eight-lane highway some 25 metres above the strait before curving and descending gently to link up with the causeway from Singapore at the border between the two countries.

But Mr Abdullah last December presented a new design for a conventional straight bridge linking the two sides.

Singapore said it would review the project to ensure "balanced benefits".