Thursday, June 18, 2009

Singapore-Malaysia relations

June 17, 2009
Khairy rejects sand sale to S'pore

Umno Youth chief says a deal linking it to building of third bridge won't be acceptable

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday dismissed outright the possibility of Malaysia selling sand to Singapore.

The MP for Rembau said he did not believe Malaysians, particularly Umno, would find a deal linking the sand issue to the building of a third bridge connecting the two countries acceptable.

'Although certainly Singapore will ask for some kind of trade-off, sand is very sensitive, so if it were up to me, the answer would be no,' he told The Malaysian Insider.

On Monday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew cited Kuala Lumpur's ban on sand exports to Singapore as an example of how cooperation had not been across the board under former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Lee told Singapore newsmen at the end of an eight-day trip to Malaysia that the ban had made it difficult for Singapore investors to take up opportunities across the Causeway, particularly in large-scale projects. He said the investors would put their money in Malaysia only if they could be absolutely sure bilateral cooperation was for the long term and not subject to 'chopping and changing'.

The Malaysian Insider website, quoting government officials, said Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration was willing to resolve outstanding bilateral issues with Singapore and consider lifting the ban on sale of sand to the Republic.

But in a report headlined 'Umno would rather 'burn bridges' than sell sand', the Insider said this was a 'no go' for Umno leaders.

It said the leaders felt that whatever benefits the construction of a third bridge may bring must not come at the expense of the country's sovereignty.

Another Umno MP, former deputy higher education minister Idris Haron, was quoted as saying that Malaysians' 'long tolerance' of Singapore has nurtured greater hatred towards the Republic. 'These grouses come from the fact that Singapore has always expected reciprocal agreements. Any prospect of getting their cooperation on something must be reciprocated,' the MP from Malacca said.

He also said that imposing any condition on the third bridge proposal was likely to hamper it.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had also rejected the idea outright, according to the Insider.

It said that for some Umno members, even the idea of a third bridge was far-fetched, and 'the government should not even waste time discussing the sand issue'.

'The government should address the many problems facing the existing bridge, like traffic congestion and so on and not waste time on something totally unnecessary,' Datuk Shahrir Samad, who is the Umno parliamentarian for Johor Baru, was quoted as saying.

The joke was on the government when it started talking about the third bridge when the Causeway and Second Link had yet to be fully optimised, Mr Shahrir said.

Considering the strong feelings against supplying sand to Singapore, PM Najib now faces the risk of alienating the Umno hardcore and their anti-Singaporean supporters, the Insider concluded.

'He might not have to deal with their discontent now considering 'Umno's culture of silence' but its outcome may prove to be deadlier when the party faces the impending 13th general elections,' it said.

June 18, 2009

Johor rejects 3rd bridge

JOHOR BARU - THE Sultan of Johor Sultan Iskandar Ismail has rejected the proposed third bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore.

He did not give a reason for rejecting the proposal and only said that he did not agree with the proposed plan during his state assembly opening speech on Thursday.

Tunku Mahkota Tunku Ibrahim Ismail read his speech and delivered the Sultan's decree (titah) during the first state assembly to held in Kota Iskandar here.

The Sultan's impromptu decree caught everyone off-guard similar to when he vowed to reclaim Pulau Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca at the launch of the state assembly last year.

The Sultan, who had earlier arrived at the assembly in the morning at about 11am, was in the state assembly complex when his son delivered his speech.

Meanwhile, Tanjung Surat assemblyman Datuk Harun Abdullah said that he agreed with the Sultan's statement. 'As a Johorean, I must follow the Sultan's decision,' he said.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been reported as saying that the construction cost of the third bridge linking Singapore and Malaysia will be borne by both countries if it takes off.

The decision on when construction could begin would depend on the outcome of a feasibility study. He said the bridge could help bring development to the eastern side of Johor up to Desaru and Mersing and even benefit Rompin and Kuantan in Pahang and parts of Terengganu.

Sultan Iskandar also reminded the people to be confident that the state has a strong economic foundation despite the current economic downturn.

'Every party must embrace the government's moves to build a successful economy. I am confident the state will continue to prosper at every field that will benefit the people.

'The prosperity in the state will continue if the rakyat stand strong and true to the constitution. The people's unity must be maintained so that all can live happily,' he said. -- THE STAR/ANN

[A lot of friendly noises were made at the highest level. But undermined by dissenting voices. If the dissenting voices were from the very low levels, we can expect that the powers that be will rein them in. But these are pretty significant players in the political field - a Sultan, and the Youth Wing Chief. This is not going to engender confidence that M'sia will stay the course. When the politicians sing different tunes, all we know is that the conductor is not in charge.]

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