Crooked bridge may help biz

(The Straits Times) – SEVERAL Johor business leaders and a state Umno chief have said the so-called crooked bridge project at the Causeway should be revived to help stimulate the economy, media reports said.

Johor Baru residents and businessmen have welcomed the project, proposed by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad during his term, as the new Customs facilities have diverted traffic from the city.

The opening of the new Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex at Bukit Chagar last December saw the old Causeway checkpoint about 500m away closed for good.

Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Soh Poh Sheng said on Monday that he was confident that businesses in the city would boom if the project was revived. 'The bridge will be a landmark for Johor Baru to attract more tourists to the city,' The Star newspaper quoted him as saying.

State news agency Bernama on Tuesday reported Umno Youth information chief Khalid Mohamad as saying the people of Johor wanted the project reconsidered. On the possibility of Singapore protesting against the revival of the project, he said both countries were capable of preventing 'the issue from being made a collateral in resolving outstanding problems'.

He was talking about a previous plan to build an S-shaped half-bridge across the Strait of Johor to replace Malaysia's side of the Causeway. The plan was scrapped in 2006 by Tun Abdullah Badawi in his early days as prime minister.

Singapore had said it saw no reason to demolish the Causeway, and said it was prepared to agree to the bridge proposal if a balance of benefits could be struck for both sides.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has not spoken publicly about his position on the crooked bridge since taking office.

Speaking days after the decision to abort the project three years ago, Datuk Seri Najib, who was then the deputy prime minister, had said that Malaysia hoped Singapore would one day realise a bridge to replace the 81-year-old Johor Causeway was good for both countries.