Updated 4.39pm, 22 May 2009
SINGAPORE, 22 May 2009: Malaysia has proposed to Singapore that a new bridge be built to link the eastern side of Johor to the island republic.
The new bridge will help to further facilitate the movement of people and goods and services between both countries, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said at a joint media conference with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong here today.
Najib, who is here since yesterday for a two-day official visit to the city-state, said the new bridge would also help to develop the eastern side of Johor such as areas in Pengerang, including Desaru, which were still less developed and had huge economic potential.
He said the current linkages, such as the Johor Causeway, were having a high volume of traffic and had affected the smooth movement of people and goods between both the neighbouring countries.
Both sides agreed to look at the proposal in the medium and long term and also agreed to commission a study to look at the bridge viability, Najib said, adding that the new bridge proposal was one of the outcomes of their bilateral meeting to further enhance the close cooperation between Malaysia and Singapore.
Currently, the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia is connected to Singapore by the ageing Johor Causeway and the Second Link crossing in Tuas.
In 2006, Malaysia dropped a plan to build a second bridge replacing the Johor Causeway after it hit a dead-end following some disagreement between the two neighbours.
Lee also suggested that the Johor Causeway be broadened and the rail link connecting both sides of the causeway be improved to further ease traffic movement.
Earlier, upon his arrival at the Istana, Najib inspected a military guard-of-honour before proceeding straight to a four-eyed meeting with Lee.
The two leaders later joined the bilateral meeting involving the top official delegations from both sides.
Najib also said that Malaysia had agreed to Singapore’s request to open a counsellor’s office in Johor Baru to assist Singaporeans in need of assistance there.
Lee had said that an increasing number of Singaporeans were now going to or passing through Johor and there was no one to assist them if they were in trouble as he personally experienced it when Singaporeans started calling him for help when they were stuck there.
Najib also said that to further enhance their relations, both governments had agreed to encourage more air linkages between the two countries, especially by the low-cost carriers.
On security, Lee again thanked the Malaysian authorities for recapturing Singapore’s most wanted fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected leader of the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, in Johor last month.
However, to a question, Najib said there was no timeline as to when Mas Selamat would be returned to Singapore but the authorities here would be kept abreast of the information or intelligence gathered by the Malaysian side.
Najib said his discussion with Lee today was good and it was another step in the Malaysia-Singapore relationship.
Both Najib and Lee hoped that the old legacy of problems they inherited in the last 18 years could be solved as soon as possible.
“We don’t have to wait for another 18 years to solve these problems,” Najib said referring to the Points of Agreement that deals with the issue of the future of railway land owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu in Singapore.
Najib said the foreign ministers of both countries would meet to study further the matter and hoped that it could be solved in a “win-win situation” for both sides.
After the news conference, Najib left for Friday prayers at the Sultan Mosque, Singapore’s oldest, in Arab Street.— Bernama