No hurry for ‘crooked bridge’

(The Malaysian Insider) – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today told Johor Umno that the government is in no hurry to revive the 'crooked bridge' to replace its half of the Causeway, adding any review will depend on discussions with Singapore.

Johor Umno Youth and several local business groups said last week they supported a review of the project first proposed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but later scrapped by his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. 

Dr Mahathir sarcastically asked today if Malaysia was independent if it needed permission for the project.

"Najib said there is no decision on the crooked bridge as there is no hurry for it," a Johor Umno warlord told The Malaysian Insider after the party president met his colleagues here.

"He also said that he will discuss with Singapore about the project," the Umno man added.

The prime minister is on a day-long visit to Johor, his first tour after succeeding Abdullah for the country's top job. Najib had earlier committed to developing the Iskandar Malaysia corridor that Abdullah had launched in 2006.

Johor MP Datuk Seri Shahrir Samad yesterday opposed any revival of the project, saying the funds could be used elsewhere in the current softening economy.

In a post at his popular weblog, Dr Mahathir had noted that more people were supporting the project now.

"Does the Government need to ask Singapore for permission to build the now desirable crooked bridge?" wrote the former prime minister, who had proposed replacing the near century-old Causeway as it kept the Johor Strait waters stagnant.

Malaysian mainstream media have reported over the last week that businessmen and some political leaders now support the crooked bridge to replace the Causeway, one of two road links to Singapore.

The island republic was in favour of the bridge if Malaysia committed to opening its airspace for military flights and would sell sand for the country's expansion.

Deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is seen as close to Dr Mahathir, has said there are no proposals to revive the crooked bridge project.

But its learnt that some companies are preparing to restart the project if it is approved.

The Najib administration is now focusing  on boosting the economy in the current financial storm and believes funds could be used elsewhere rather than expanding land links to Singapore.

However, government sources say it is amenable to the project if Singapore is agreeable, hence Dr Mahathir's question about the country's independence to decide projects in its territory.

In the last recession caused by the Asian Financial Crisis of 97/98, the Mahathir administration spent its way out by pushing mega projects such as Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, KLIA, ports and transport links.