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Why must taxpayers foot RM100 million bill to compensate Gerbang Perdana for the folly of the unilateral RM1.1 billion “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge” to replace the Johore-Singapore causeway?
Unfortunately, the government has yet to set a good example either of “prudent spending” or full commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance as the hallmark of the RM220 billion Ninth Malaysia Play – as illustrated by the folly of the unilateral RM1.1 billion “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge” finally terminated by the Cabinet a day earlier on Wednesday.
The question many Malaysians are asking is why they have eventually to foot the RM100 million bill to compensate Gerbang Perdana for the folly of the unilateral RM1.1 billion “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge”?
A full, proper and transparent audit should be conducted to determine the liability for the RM100 million compensation payable to Gerbang Perdana to establish whether the company should not bear partial responsibility for the losses suffered for the folly of the unilateral “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge” to replace the Johore-Singapore causeway.
I am on public record as far back as August 2003 opposing the unilateral construction of the crooked half-bridge to replace the Malaysian half of the Johore-Singapore causeway, in anticipation of bilateral disagreements between Singapore and Malaysia which could result in financial losses to Malaysia.
Right from the beginning, DAP had called for a joint construction of a new bridge to replace the Johore-Singapore causeway as a RM1.1 billion crooked half-bridge by Malaysia will be a lasting and shameful symbol of “crooked” Malaysia-Singapore relations as well as a “crooked” ASEAN.
If the government had listened to the DAP advice, that the replacement of the Johore-Singapore Causeway must be a joint venture of the two governments, Malaysia would not be facing dilemma of the scrapped “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge”,RM100 million compensation and the RM1.2 billion customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) complex becoming a white elephant.
This is what I said in my media statement on 9th August 2003:
The elevated “crooked” half-bridge will be built only on the Malaysian side or half of the 900-metre Causeway to allow free passage of watercraft and water currents of the Johore Straits, but because of the very short distance of 450 metres from the Johore/Singapore boundary, the “crooked” half-bridge has to be curved and extended more than thrice the distance to 1.4-kilometre so that heavy vehicles such as lorries can cope with a maximum incline of 4.2 degrees.
Mahathir announced last week that Malaysia will not involve Singapore in the construction of the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace Malaysia’s half of the causeway as Singapore’s involvement would only serve to delay the project.
This is not good enough an excuse to proceed with the “crooked” half-bridge, which will make Malaysia, Singapore and ASEAN the laughing-stocks in the world as it will be a standing symbol of their chronic inability to co-operate whether at the bilateral and regional levels – especially when there is no immediate urgency to start work on the project, as the RM2 billion Johore-Singapore Second Link completed more than five years ago is still grossly under-utilised.
I find most shocking the statement by the new Transport Minister, Datuk Chan Kong Choy the next day that the design and construction of the “crooked” half-bridge would not be altered in any manner even if Singapore should agree to jointly develop the Gerbang Selatan Bersepadu (GSB) project, and that the possibility of “straightening” the new GSB bridge was nil! (Sin Chew 3.8.03)
DAP calls on Mahathir to clarify whether Kong Choy’s haughty and arrogant statement correctly represented the Malaysian Government stand – that even if Singapore agrees to jointly develop the Gerbang Selatan Bersepadu project and replace the present causeway with a straight bridge, it is still “no go” as the “crooked” half-bridge must still be built.
If so, this could only mean that there will have to be another “crooked” half bridge at the Singapore end to complete a “double crooked” bridge to replace the present causeway - undoubtedly making it the only one of its kind in the world to join a 900-metre distance with a 2.8-kilometre “double-crooked” bridge!
This does not make sense to Malaysians or for Malaysia-Singapore or ASEAN relations.
In the past few days, Malaysians have been confused by the contradictory statements issued by the government to justify the folly of the unilateral “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge”.
Firstly, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar insisted that international law is one the side of Malaysia and that if the half-bridge issue had gone to the international court, the government is confident that it would have won the case.
Yet on the other hand, an unnamed government source is telling Malaysians:
“Even if we were to build the crooked bridge on our side, we would have to get Singapore’s consent before we even touch one brick of the Causeway to link it to the bridge.”
Secondly, Syed Hamid maintained that the Cabinet decision to scrap the “Scenic Crooked Half-Bridge” was made in the “nation’s interest”. Wasn’t the earlier Cabinet decision (of which both the present Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were members) to start work unilaterally on the “Scenic Crooked Half-Bridge” also made in the “nation’s interest”? How then did the Malaysian taxpayers end up with having the foot a RM100 million bill to Gerbang Perdana, which did not have to suffer a single sen of loss although it lobbied for the “Scenic Crooked Half-Bridge”? Finally, whose interest is being served?
Thirdly, Syed Hamid said the “Scenic Bridge” was meant to be “Bridge of Friendship”. If so, how was it allowed to proceed on a unilateral basis, in the teeth of opposition of Singapore, making a total mockery of the meaning of a “Bridge of Friendship”?
Be that as it may, the important question is whether there is going to be a full, proper and transparent audit as to who should bear responsibility for the loss of RM100 million or more as a result of the scrapping of the “Crooked Scenic Half-Bridge” – as the RM220 billion Ninth Malaysia Plan could not have a worse start in terms of accountability, integrity and efficiency if nobody has to bear responsibility for the RM100 million losses apart from the suffering taxpayers!
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission