KUALA LUMPUR: His rise to Prime Minister coincided with the revival of talk about the Causeway being replaced, leading to much speculation in the Malaysian media.
But Datuk Seri Najib Razak was cautious when discussing the subject during the interview, acknowledging that it came with much historical baggage.
While he felt that the Causeway should be improved to facilitate the movement of people between Singapore and Malaysia, what replaces it needs fuller study.
‘Logic says that progress means change, progress means development, progress means more comfort and better communication and transport for the peoples of Malaysia and Singapore,’ he said.
‘So if you translate that, it means that the Causeway should be replaced, then so be it, but we should not be hasty about it. Let’s look at all angles, to see whether both countries are comfortable with the project.’
Building a bridge to replace the Causeway has been a thorny issue in bilateral relations. It was an initiative of former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, who repeatedly raised the issue in the last few years of his term.
When Singapore wanted to discuss the bridge as part of a package of bilateral trade-offs, he insisted that Malaysia could build an elevated bridge to replace Malaysia’s half of the Causeway – an S-shaped half-bridge widely dubbed the ‘crooked bridge’. The plan was eventually scrapped by Tun Dr Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Badawi in 2006, but there have been calls for it to be revived since Mr Najib – who is seen as a protege of Dr Mahathir – assumed premiership.
Johor business leaders in particular have been clamouring for it, claiming that a new bridge would resuscitate flagging businesses in the area.
When asked about the prospects of building the bridge – crooked or otherwise – Mr Najib said his administration would not be rushed into a decision.
‘We take it in our stride. I’ve just been in office for 1-1/2 months. It’s something that we need to look into, because there are some issues that were tied to the bridge before,’ he said.
‘Reopening the whole thing: I wouldn’t want to proceed until there’s a real, positive finality to the whole project. If I start reviving the bridge project, I want to see successful conclusion. I don’t want it to be a repeat of what happened.
‘So let’s get a study of all aspects of the project, and there’s no timeframe of course. It’s not something that will happen immediately. But we’ll take it in our stride.’
Source : Straits Times