KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Singapore need "at least three to four more bridges" to facilitate border traffic flow, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (Mar 19).
Speaking during a question-and-answer session at the Invest Malaysia meeting, he said that compared to Penang, which is now planning for a new tunnel to link the mainland and the island, the traffic flow between Singapore and Malaysia is much heavier.
"Even Penang, which has less population than Singapore, at first rejected the first bridge but then, subsequently, we built another bridge and now we want a tunnel, and that's (just) Penang and the mainland," he said.
"We only have one causeway and a bridge (linking Singapore and Malaysia). We need at least three to four more bridges," he said during the forum.
Dr Mahathir claimed that Singapore does not want any more bridges, for a reason that he "does not understand".
In his first stint as prime minister, Dr Mahathir had first mooted the idea of a crooked bridge — a six-lane highway that would curve in a way that would allow vessels to pass under it — between Singapore and Johor.
In 2003, just before ending his 22-year tenure at prime minister, he announced that Malaysia would go ahead and build its own half of the crooked bridge if Singapore refused to demolish its half of the Causeway.
However, the project was dropped by Dr Mahathir's successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
'NEGOTIATE LIKE CIVILISED PEOPLE'
Commenting on the issue of the price of water in the 1962 Water Agreement, Dr Mahathir said that both sides will "try to negotiate like civilised people".
Under the agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of water from the Johor River.
Singapore pays 3 sen per thousand gallons of raw water and sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per thousand gallons, a fraction of the cost of treating the water.
Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent or 5 mgd of the water supplied to Singapore. In practice, Singapore has been supplying 16 mgd of treated water to Johor at its request.
Dr Mahathir has called for the price to be reviewed. Singapore has taken a clear and consistent position that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water when it chose not to do so in 1987.
Last week, it was announced that the attorneys-general of Singapore and Malaysia will continue discussions to "better understand each other's position" on the right to review the price of water.
The attorneys-general of both countries had met in December last year but their discussions were overshadowed by issues that had arisen over the Johor Bahru Port Limits and the Seletar Airport Instrument Landing System procedures.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said last week that there has been no agreement made on the right to review the price.
"There is only agreement to sit down, to explain, discuss and to appreciate each other's respective positions," he added.
SINGAPORE AND CHINA REMAIN CLOSE ECONOMIC PARTNERS
Dr Mahathir added on Monday that while there may be differences in views, Singapore and China remain close partners with Malaysia.
"They are our top two key trading and investment partners. With mutual respect we will always find ways to benefit from mutual interest," the prime minister said.
Dr Mahathir said the government would like to see the private sector play a bigger role in contributing towards the economy. He also said Putrajaya would continue to welcome foreign investment from all countries.
"The focus is not about which country the investment originates from, but it is about the value proposition of the ventures which have to bring balanced benefits to both sides," he added.