Old habits never die. Likewise, crooked bridges into Singapore.
A plan that is more than 20 years in the making is getting revived.
As a result of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's second wind, he is looking once again to build a new “crooked bridge” between his country and Singapore.
The Malaysians proposed the crooked bridge to help ease congestion into Singapore and reduce pollution in the Tebrau Straits.
The proposed six-lane S-shaped highway would curve in such a way that it allows vessels to pass under it.
If ships were allowed to cross the Johor Strait, it could provide a boon to ports in the state.
Mahathir first mooted the crooked bridge idea to replace the Causeway when he was prime minister for the first time between 1981 and 2003, during the Barisan Nasional administration.
In 2003, just before ending his 22-year tenure as prime minister, he even announced that Malaysia would go ahead and build a crooked bridge if Singapore refused to demolish its half of the Causeway.
Proposing idea again
Chief Minister Osman Sapian said Johor has asked the federal government to revive the crooked bridge project.
He told reporters on Tuesday, Oct. 16: “We have proposed it to the prime minister and we hope that he will approve our request.”
This suggestion comes two months after the chief minister suggested building a bridge linking southeast Johor to Pulau Ubin.
A Malaysian delegation headed by Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali will be heading to Singapore soon to discuss the proposal on Oct. 27 or 28.
It is unclear if Singapore has agreed to discuss this proposal. Previously, Azmin made proclamations pertaining to the Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail project that he later had to backtrack on.
The third bridge is a separate proposal for a new bridge between the two countries.
Two land bridges already exist: The 95-year-old Causeway and a Second Link built in 1998.
The crooked bridge plan never materialised during the tenure of Abdullah Badawi, Mahathir's successor, and when Najib Razak took over in 2009.
Johor crown prince says "long way to go"
The crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Idris, tweeted hours after Osman's statements that there was “nothing concrete” about the plan.
“Long way to go,” the constitutional monarch tweeted.
All chief ministers were called for a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office today. Nothing concrete as the matter has to be briefed to His Majesty. Long way to go. https://t.co/VraaLZiYze— HRH Crown Prince of Johor (@HRHJohorII) October 16, 2018
In addition, any major construction project which involves the state of Johor would need the sultan's approval. He has been known to object to complicated bridge designs in favour of a more straightforward approach.
Other issues up for discussion
Besides the crooked bridge, Osman said the delegation will also discuss the review of the price of water supplied to the island republic.
Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, may draw 250 million gallons of raw water daily from the Johor River in Malaysia at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons.
In return, Johor is entitled to receive a daily supply of up to five million gallons of treated water -- or 2 percent of the water supplied to Singapore -- at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.
Singapore has said the cost of treatment is RM2.40 per 1,000 gallons, while Malaysia sells the treated water to Johor citizens at RM3.95 for the same amount.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had stressed that the 1962 Water Agreement between the two neighbours is "sacrosanct" at the 2018 National Day Rally in August.
"We must proceed strictly in accordance with its terms," he said.
The 1962 agreement was guaranteed by both Singapore and Malaysia in the 1965 Separation Agreement, which was in turn registered with the United Nations.