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Monday, 6 July 2009

MALAYSIA-SINGAPURA: MEMBINA TEROWONG MENYEBERANG SELAT

Bridge too far?
A QUESTION OF BUSINESS WITH P. GUNASEGARAM


YESTERDAY I had the opportunity to ponder this long-standing problem of cooperation – lack of, that is – between Malaysia and Singapore with someone over breakfast.

I had written earlier, in another column, (see Question Time: Negotiating with Singapore, The Star, June 19) about Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s visit to Malaysia, saying that we need to be firm when dealing with Singapore.

But, really, we need to put many things behind us – Singapore and Malaysia that is – and move on with implementing things that benefit both countries to the hilt.

We are neighbours after all – almost family really – and if we can’t “love thy neighbour” perhaps we can at least help each other once in a long while.

And so, I shall take a crack at suggesting an area where we should really be cooperating and I shall also suggest a partial solution which may satisfy one of Singapore’s intractable demands without compromising much for Malaysia.

And more, during these tough times when there is suppressive pressure on growth, here’s a chance to stimulate demand for both countries. This is truly the mother of all stimulus packages, not least because there will be so many multiplier effects.

I suggest this only partly tongue-in-cheek and really see no reason why this can’t be possible with just a little bit of good humour from both sides and a willingness to see both forest and trees.

So here goes. It seems the problem is always the bridge. We just don’t seem to be able to get a deal on the bridge. In true out-of-the-box thinking, I get around the bridge problem. Yes, a tunnel – the headline would have already suggested that to you if you were paying attention.

Yes, I hear you say: “Are you nuts?” No, not quite but please hear me out before you call me names. Imagine, just imagine what a tunnel would do.

No more Causeway, no more bridge. Water and boats flow and float between both countries with nary a hindrance. Imagine the amount of new shoreline and sea that we will have. Think transport, water sports, waterfront developments, rivieras, restaurants, shops, offices, parks, beaches, walkways, nature.

Perhaps you get the picture now. How much more beautiful the whole place will look. How much more potential to do all sorts of things. You can even have ferries plying between the two countries – just for the heck of it and to take in the views, just for an evening out to Singapore or Malaysia for dinner.

And the tunnel. Think about that. Think about how connected it will make Malaysia and Singapore. Think of all the things that can go through the tunnels – roads, railways, pipes. And all of these without taking up any surface space.

And think of how much of stimulus there will be to the economies of both countries from building the tunnel. I have no idea how much it would cost but it could be anywhere from RM2bil to RM5bil, perhaps even RM10bil. But I am sure it will be worth it.

It will be worth it not just because of stimulus to the economy but the potential it gives for existing waterfront development in both countries, spillover projects and the enhanced, superior links between the two countries for the conduit of all manner of things.

And besides all that, I did promise that it would at least partially solve an intractable demand from Singapore. That has been sand – and lots of it from Malaysia.

So here is what I suggest Malaysia proposes. Singapore can demolish the Causeway and keep all the debris for its land reclamation. Of course, it bears the expenses for that.

Not only that, it can dig out all the sand and earth for the tunnel between the two countries and keep the sand for its reclamation works, in accordance with international law, it goes without saying. Of course, it bears the expenses for that.

That’s quite a bit of sand and debris for reclamation work and should keep Singapore happy, for say five years. Which is a very long time when you are talking about Singapore.

The rest of the expenses can be shared between the two countries, with each bearing infrastructure costs on its own side.

Now that should settle things, stimulate the economy of both countries, produce multiple development and other projects to multiply the benefits arising from the project, set the stage for future cooperation and give real meaning to the expression win-win.

Still think I am nuts? No, don’t answer that!

■ Managing editor P. Gunasegaram – no he has not been promoted to managing director as implied at the end-notes in last week’s column (apologies for that, particularly to our dear managing director) – thinks the Singapore and Malaysian governments must be nuts if they don’t do something like this, and soon. (Dipetik dripada The Star 4 Julai 2009).

Komen:
Setuju 110% (seratus sepuluh peratus) idea yang dikemukakan penulis ini. Terowong antara Malaysia dan Singapura tidak panjang, malah terowong menghubungi Uk dengan Peranchis lebih panjang - lagi panjang. Semua tahu kemudahan dan manfaat yang diperoleh kedua-dua bangsa - Inggeris dan Peranchis, malah oleh semua warga Eropah dan pelancong seluruh dunia. Terowong itu wujud kerana adanya kerjasama rapat antara dua negara, UK dan Peranchis, walaupun sejarah menunjukkan kedua-dua negara ini pernah bermusuhan sepanjang zaman. Akhirnya bak kata mat saleh "common sense prevails."

Berdasarkan senario ini takkanlah Malaysia dan Singapura tidak boleh mengatasi masalah jambatan ini. Cuma yang membimbangkan ialah Singapura masih juga berkeras dengan keinginannya: jambatan atau terowong boleh dibuat dengan syarat beri pasir dan ruang udara, yang selama ini menjadi penghalang kepada kerjasama demikian.

Semua orang faham mengapa Singapura mahu pasir dan ruang udara. Dan Malaysia pun faham mengapa ia menolak tuntutan Singapura. Pada saat-saat seperti ini apa yang diperlukan ialah kejujuran dan keikhlasan. Baik Malaysia, lebih-lebih lagi Singapura.

Jalan keluar daripada kemelut ini adalah dengan menghapuskan rasa curiga dan prejudis pemimpin dan rakyat kedua-dua negara. Hapuskanlah tembok psikologis ini dengan "kepala dingin". Sebagai permulaan mengapa tidak Singapura menyingkirkan rasa prejudis rakyat dan pemimpin Malaysia melalui penjelasan atau tindakan bahawa sistem canggih pertahanan Singapura itu tidak akan mengancam keselamatan Malaysia, Indonesia dan Brunei sendiri, yang selama ini berada dalam apa yang disebut Gugusan Pulau Melayu, (the Malaya Archipelago), seperti halnya Singapura.

Dan kalau bercerita tentang bisnes pula biarlah keuda-dua Malaysia dan Singapura berada dalam keadaan menang-menang. Kalau untung, dua-dua untung dan begitu juga sebaliknya. Dan tentunya tak adalah orang Melayu asyik mendengar muzik latar "Melayu asli" sahaja, atau orang Cina syik dengan lagu "opera"nya.

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