21 Disember 2007

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi…a virtual common foe of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic society

By The Oracle

GOING by a series of unprecedented tumult and change that prevailed within the Malaysia’s ethnically-charged political scene over the past four years or so, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s ungraceful exit is imminent.

For truly discerning and independent observers of the nation’s politics, the bumbling premier’s scarcely hidden inability to cope with such sea change makes the exit as good as a foregone conclusion.

Support for Abdullah’s pathetically inconsistent and jumpy leadership, especially amongst the nation’s urban populace and sizeable middle class of all racial denominations, is fast waning.


The fake picture of normalcy in support for his administration, from within and without the dominant UMNO, merely hinges on the nation’s vast and far-reaching web of official and semi-official propaganda machinery, which is still at the premier’s beck and call, or at least, at the mercy of his coterie of youthful but ill-experienced and grossly isolated advisers.

In spite of that false picture of undivided mass support, the writing is very much inscribed on the wall. The nation’s second largest ethnic group, the dominantly mercantile Chinese community, has made it clear to keen and independent observers that all they wanted is a strong and decisive Malay leadership figure that can weather the prevailing global and national economic uncertainties.

Such clear message from the Malaysian Chinese community is something that could not be just be taken lightly. In real political terms, the two major Chinese-based partner in the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition, the Malaysia Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan – notwithstanding the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) – do not usually make their own decisions, especially on matters pertaining to the interests of the Chinese community.

Their decision are mainly dependent on the aspirations of the myriad but solidified web of Chinese ethnic associations and guilds.

In other words, the two Chinese-based parties within the ruling coalition and the DAP are mere political conduits for the jealously ethnic Chinese associations and guilds to express and implement the views and aspirations of the community in the ethnically-based Malaysian political fabric.

This has been proven many times over during the previous general as well as by-elections.

After more than four years, Abdullah’s leadership is thus generally seen by the Chinese community as “too incapable” of steering both the country’s economy out of its present abject uncertainties.

Official and semi-official spin doctoring aside, the Chinese community has been – for sometimes since the commencement of Abdullah’s premiership tenure – really feeling the pinch attributed to rampant inflationary pressures owing to failure by his administration to subsidize the rising price of fossil fuels.

As for support from the nation’s mostly ethnic Tamil-Hindu Indian community, an important ebb had been arrived at owing to Abdullah’s fumblings in facing the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) demands.

Since before and after the Nov. 25th Hindraf rally in Kuala Lumpur, evidences are forming up to prove that the extremely sensitive sectarian demands by the unregistered Tamil-Hindu organization are epitome of Abdullah’s much-lauded but scarcely implemented policy of openness seriously back-firing on his own political survivability.

A sizeable majority of the Tamil-Hindu community of Malaysia were descendents of indentured labourers who were brought into the country by the British colonialists during the turn of the 20th century to work the then mushrooming expatriate-owned rubber plantations.

Following the advent of synthetic rubber post-World War II, the greatly reduced world demand for natural rubber led to a slump in the nation’s rubber industry, which had in turn caused serious socio-economic ramifications on the ethnic Tamil community.


As rubber plantations of old were turned into housing developments, and even new townships and industrial centres, to cater to the country’s growing urbanization and industrialisation, denizens of the Tamil coolie lines in the plantations were uprooted and transplanted into squatter settlements of major cities, especially Kuala Lumpur, thus the prevailing social blights attributed to the disenfranchised minority.

Such insidious socio-economic phenomena attributed to the Malaysian Indian community have all along been dangerously simmering just below the surface of the nation’s oft-advocated but scarcely maintained image of stability.

What was popularly seen by the Malay majority as growing failure by the Abdullah administration to maintain and safeguard their inherent dominance vis-à-vis the nation’s multi-racial set-up, as guaranteed by the Federal Comstitution, are being seen by keen observers as the imminent final straw that is bound to break the proverbial camel’s back.


His controversy-ridden decision to introduce the more than 2,000 square km Iskandar Development Region (IDR) growth corridor in the southern part of Johor – a long-time bastion of his own UMNO ruling party – is being increasingly perceived by even his party stalwarts as an abject sell-out to neighbouring Singapore and the domestic Chinese mercantile community.

To add insult to injury, former deputy premier, Tun Musa Hitam – long been identified as Abdullah’s political idol – who acts as the IDR’s adviser, has even inflamed hatred amongst Malays from within and without UMNO by openly declaring that the growth corridor project shall exclude affirmative action policy that favours the Malays and other bumiputras (please refer to the series of seven postings on the IDR in this blogspot).

This together with many other inherent political weaknesses that an increasing number of UMNO stalwarts are attributing to Abdullah’s bumbling leadership are fast alienating him from the powerful grassroots.


With such negative scenario arrayed against Abdullah’s leadership of the nation, the only possible questions that remained of his administration are:

* How and when is his exit possible, in a not too distant future?

* If such happens, who, within UMNO, has the necessary political clout and dexterity to appease the current disparate but increasingly solidified “opposition regime”, while at the same time maintain loyalty of the three million or so members of the dominant and jealously grass root-based conservative Malay status quo political entity, and not to mention the unpredictable bureaucracy; to make the post-Abdullah transition a smooth and one-off affair?


Whatever is the answer, a smooth transition of power could not possibly be with maintaining UMNO’s dominance over the nation’s political landscape. A smooth transition can never be if all concerned adopt the grossly destructive attitude of burning the mosquito net to kill a single elusive mosquito.

Continuation of UMNO’s dominance is the necessary formula to maintain strong government, thus future stability. Whatever weaknesses and excesses attributed to the middle-aged party can possibly be corrected by intervention from a whole new sets of idealistic leaders whose main mission was to undertake serious and all-encompassing re-invention of the party.

We must, at all cost avoid the pitfalls of the September 2006 military coup de etat in Thailand, which toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A new Thai constitutional amendement , which was drafted by a panel appointed by Bangkok’s military junta and was approved in an August 19 referendum, has unwittingly bogged the kingdom down in a mire of weak and unstable coalitions and frequent coups.

The latest constitutional charter tweaks the country’s voting system in favour of smaller parties. In other words, the aim of the new constitutional charter was to make it harder for any other dominant majority party like Thaksin’s already dissolved Thai Rath Thai Party (TRT) to emerge in the future.

Such move is ironic: the whole point of Thailand’s last democratic constitution, passed in 1997, was to free the kingdom from the cycle of weak and unstable coalitions, thus frequent military coups. The imminent danger is now that the constitutional charter will succeed too well and Thailand will be back to weak governments.

07 Disember 2007


Bahagian Akhir

Tidak dinafikan potensi pembangunan koridor ekonomi seperti WPI ini untuk menjadi pemangkin dan pemacu ekonomi di Selatan Johor.

Namun demikian, berdasarkan pelan induk pembangunan wilayah berkenaan, terlalu banyak konsesi diberikan kepada orang luar, terutama kalangan pelabur dari Singapura.

Dasar, perancangan dan perlaksanaan program pembangunan di WPI ini kebanyakannya membelakangkan kepentingan taktikal dan strategik masyarakat tempatan, terutama kalangan orang Melayu, sehingga tidak boleh tidak memperlihatkan keadaan “menang sorak, kampong tergadai”.

Berdasarkan pengamatan ini, kedudukan Melayu di WPI nescaya bakal menjadi ibarat “melukut ditepi gantang” kerana gagal turut serta di dalam arus pembangunan pesat yang dijangka berlaku di kawasan berkenaan.

Jika ini berlaku, ternyata bahawa wilayah pembangunan ekonomi di selatan tanahair ini bertentangan sama sekali dengan dasar afirmatif kerajaan untuk menyusun semula masyarakat dan memelihara ketuanan bangsa Melayu di bumi sendiri.

Gejala ini juga amat bertentangan dengan Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang jelas menjamin kedudukan orang Melayu dalam semua aspek kehidupan di negara yang berdaulat lagi merdeka ini.

Konsep pembangunan wilayah seperti WPI ini perlu dilihat sebagai hanya memenuhi cita-cita segelintir anggota pucuk kepimpinan UMNO masa kini yang ternyata begitu ghairah untuk menyesuaikan diri dengan perencanaan globalisasi tamadun Yahudi-Nasara Barat dengan konsep Orde Dunia Baru mereka yang ternyata sedang giat ditentang oleh kalangan masyarakat Dunia Ketiga dan negara Islam yang sedang membangun.

Tidak dinafikan pembangunan koridor ekonomi di selatan tanahair ini akan lambat laun atau sedikit sebanyak melimpah kepada kalangan rakyat jelata.

Namun demikian, sekiranya limpahan ini tidak seiring dengan peningkatan kos pengeluaran dan sara hidup di sekitar wilayah berkenaan, ini pasti akan membawa kesan negatif kepada masyarakat setempat yang rata-ratanya terdiri dari mereka yang menjalankan ekonomi sara hidup seperti bertani secara kecil kecilan.

Perancangan tidak seimbang di WPI yang mementingkan modal insan dari segi knowledge economy atau ekonomi pengetahuan berintensif modal pasti akan membataskan peluang pekerjaan kepada anak tempatan yang kebanyakannya masih tidak berpelajaran tinggi.

Dasar dan perencanaan WPI sedia ada bakal mencetuskan satu bencana sosial di dalam wilayah pembangunan berkenaan. Bencana ini bakal menjelma dalam bentuk ketidakseimbangan sosio-ekonomi di antara penduduk tempatan dengan para pelabur/pekerja asing.

Kemelut ini pasti menjadi lebih rumit apabila warga Singapura yang mempunyai kuasa membeli yang lebih besar bebas masuk, bergerak dengan mudah untuk bekerja dan tinggal di dalamnya.

Bagi menegaskan kejanggalan WPI dari segi mendaulatkan agama, bangsa dan negara, berikut dipaparkan perbandingan antara program pembangunan wilayah di selatan Johor ini dengan Koridor Pembangunan Utara Semenanjung yang melibatkan tiga buah negeri iaitu Perak, Kedaj, Pulau Pinang dan Perlis:

Perbezaan di antara Koridor Utara dan WPI

* WPI melibatkan sebuah negeri sahaja iaitu Johor manakala Koridor Utara membabitkan
empat buah negeri iaitu Perak, Kedah, Pulau Pinang dan Perlis.

* Pelaburan WPI melibatkan pelaburan langsung dari negara jiran iaitu Singapura. Di Koridor Utara, tiada negara asing terlibat dalam pelaburan secara langsung.

* Rancangan pembangunan WPI mempunyai wilayah pentadbiran sendiri. Koridor Utara tiada pentadbiran sendiri dan sebaliknya berasaskan pembangunan sumber sedia ada di setiap negeri diselaraskan oleh sebuah badan yang dipengerusikan oleh Perdana Menteri.

* Fokus pelaburan WPI lebih kepada pembangunan perindustrian dan ekonomi kawasan bandar. Koridor Utara menumpu kepada pembangunan ekonomi luar bandar serta sektor pertanian.

*Yang paling penting, WPI melibat pelaburan dan penyertaan dari negara luar, terutama Singapura. Sebagai rakan akrab Zionis Israel dirantau ini, pengaruh, pasaran, barangan dan perkhidmatan yang berasal dari Israel akan begitu mudah dibawa masuk, justeru bakal menjadikan wilayah ini sebagai pusat pengedaran semula barangan Zionis kepada masyarakat Islam rantau ini dan seluruh dunia.

Ada pihak yang mungkin mengutarakan hujah bahawa sebelum wujud WPI, para pelabur dan individu dari Singapura telah sememangnya sekian lama membeli hartanah dan membina perusahan dan perniagaan mereka di sekitar Johor Bahru.

Namun begitu, kemasukan modal Singapura sebelum ini berlaku secara rambang. Tetapi dengan kewujudan WPI, proses pembelian hartanah dan membina perusahaan dan perniagaan sekitar Selatan Johor kini lebih berstruktur, terancang dan mempunyai gerak-kerja yang begitu komprehensif, lengkap dengan skima bagi mempermudahkan semua ini.

Pembangunan modal insan yang kononnya menjadi teras pembangunan dan penstrukturan masyrakat Malaysia, terutama orang Melayu, sebenarnya tidak diterapkan dalam perancangan mega di WPI ini.

Program pembangunan pekerja ilmuan (knowledge workforce), pekerja terlatih dan separa terlatih untuk penduduk tempatan tidak langsung dipertimbangkan di dalam WPI.

Jangan kita terus biarkan perlaksanaan WPI ibarat “kera dihutan di susui, anak dalam rumah mati kelaparan”.

Allah selamatkan Sultan
Anugerahkan dia
Segala kehormatan
Sihat dan ria
kekal dan makmur
Luaskan kuasa
Naungkan kami
Rakyat dipimpini bersama lagi
Dengan merdeka bersatu hati
Allah selamatkan Sultan


Bahagian Enam

Keikhlasan Singapura dalam memainkan peranan strategik mereka di WPI harus diragukan. Malah dari sudut pandangan sejarah setakat ini Negara republik pulau ini belum pernah menunjukkan keikhlasan dalam perhubungan dengan kalangan negara jiran sejak mencapai kemerdekaan melalui Malaysia lebih 42 tahun lalu.

Walaupun ASEAN mengamalkan dasar ‘prosper thy neighbour’ atau dasar memakmurkan jiran, namun Singapura yang hari ini bertaraf sebagai negara baru maju tidak langsung berminat membangunkan negara jiran. Negara ini sebaliknya lebih kerap dilihat sebagai menangguk di air keruh’.

Justeru dalam menangani isu WPI, sikap mementingkan diri Singapura amat terserlah melalui apa yang paparkan oleh media mereka. Berikut adalah rencana yang dimuatkan did dalam akhbar berbahasa Cina di republic berkenaan Shu-Ching Jean Chen yang mengimpikan WPI sebagai sebuah kota metropolis ala mengikut konsep Singapura Raya atau ‘Greater Singapore’, seperti apa yang wujud di Wilayah Pembangunan Ekonomi Ekslusif Shenzhen, Republik Rakyat Cina.

Petikan dari Shu-Ching Jean Chen 12 September 2007:

Dream Of A Malaysian-Singaporean Regional Metropolis

SINGAPORE - As a sign of how far Malaysia has come out of its self-imposed isolation following the regional financial crisis a decade ago, one need look no farther than the short trip the country’s prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, made Wednesday to his longtime estranged neighbor, Singapore, where he hobnobbed on the resort island of Sentosa with local politicians and international businessmen, seeking to sell them on an ambitious development plan.

In partnership with Singapore, Badawi wants to create a regional hub of the same caliber as the increasingly integrated region in China between the financial gateway of Hong Kong and the tech center of Shenzhen.

His vision hinges on the development of a new economic zone in Malaysia next to Singapore
called the Iskandar Development Region, or IDR, that would specialize in property services
such as Islamic REITs, financial services, logistics, health care and creative industries.

Through IDR, Badawi intends to vault Malaysia from a middling manufacturing-based
economy into the ranks of advanced services providers.

“The setting up of multinational businesses in the IDR and its proximity to Singapore suggests
an exciting development: namely, the rise of a new regional metropolis in Asia,” he said Wednesday at the Forbes Global CEO Conference.

“If Hong Kong and Shenzhen symbolize the gateway into north Asia, Singapore and IDR represent the cosmopolitan access point to ASEAN as well as the crossroad between India and China,” he said.

To achieve his vision, he is proposing a raft of market-opening measures heretofore unthinkable in Malaysia. First to go would be some of the country’s notorious red tape, which includes as many as 64 separate approvals from government agencies each year for operating a hotel, and more than six month’s wait for approval for a land transfer. A one-stop licensing center is being set up.

In his annual budget presentation, Badawi proposed to eliminate double taxation and allow foreign investors to own majority stakes in industries such as property and fund management. He also is seeking to simplify business visa applications, sponsor on-the-job training for skilled workers and enhance its offshore tax haven in Labuan.

The IRD initiative received a boost Aug. 31 from a group of companies from the Middle East, including Aldar Properties PJSC of the United Arab Emirates, which inked a deal for a $1.2 billion investment in the zone, the single largest-ever foreign investment in Malaysia.

At the Forbes conference, Badawi also presented an economic blueprint for foreign investment to help address the country’s widening urban-rural divide, which is exacerbated by an inadequate transportation infrastructure.

He said his government is planning to make the north the hub for food industries and electronics, and the east a center of petrochemicals and tourism, complementary to the IDR zone in the south as the focal point for services industries. Farther afield, he would like relatively undeveloped Sabah and Sarawak to be preserved for eco-tourism.

Among the foreign investors that have responded to the more open investment environment are Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson. The movie stars have taken stakes in Green Rubber Global, which claims to have developed the first commercially viable and waste-free method to recycle tires. Forbes magazine publisher Steve Forbes’ family also has a stake in the company.

It is aiming for an IPO in London's junior Alternative Investment Market.

Artikel ini jelas mengimpikan WPI dan kawasan sekelilingnya di selatan negeri Johor, terutama bahagian yang paling strategik, akan ‘kehilangan kedaulatan’ justeru dijajah semula. Kuasa politik orang Melayu di Johor akan terhakis dengan tergadainya kuasa ekonomi kepada para pelabur asing, khususnya dari Singapura.

Kepentingan strategik Singapura kepada kejayaan projek mega WPI ini akan menjadi realiti
melalui Zon Akses Terbuka (Free Access Zone) yang bakal diujudkan di dalam WPI. Ini bermakna pergerakan orang dan barangan keluar masuk dari Singapura akan berlaku tanpa
sebarang sekatan.

Sebagai rakan akrab Zionis Israel dirantau ini, Singapura bakal dijadikan pusat pengedaran semula (repackaging) bagi barangan dari Israel yang dibawa ke WPI dan seterusnya menjadikan Johor Bahru sebagai pusat pengedaran semula barangan ini kepada masyarakat Islam serantau yang berjumlah melebihi 260 juta orang. Fasa seterusnya, WPI akan menjadi pusat pengedaran semula kepada kalangan negara anggota Pertubuhan Persidangan Islam (OIC).

Berikut adalah keresahan yang diluahkan oleh mantan Perdana Menteri Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, tentang kemungkinan WPI menjadi sebahagian dari wilayah Singapura.

Dipetik dari satu temuramah bertarikh 9 Ogos 2007 dan disiarkan pada 5 September 2007:

Beware the IDR falling into S'pore's hands

The Iskandar Development Region (IDR) is a massive and expensive project that is said to be very beneficial especially to Johor in the long run. But various quarters - including you, Tengku Razaleigh, PAS members and international financial analysts based in Singapore - are sceptical about whether the project will run as smoothly as planned.

Tun Dr Mahathir: We can develop our territory anywhere we like. But the problem is ngapore's involvement in this project. Why must there be a special joint ministerial committee to decide on the development in Malaysia?

Why must we depend so much on Singapore's participation to develop the IDR? As we know, Singapore is not a good neighbour, and even if it agrees to be involved in the IDR, Singaporeans will eventually buy houses or factories and reside here.

Singapore reportedly has plans to increase its population to eight million to 10 million (sic), a large part of which will be imported from mainland China.

As Singapore can only accommodate up to five million to six million, the rest of its population will probably be placed the IDR.

Malacca and Penang remain in Malaysia because the Chinese population can be offset by the large Malay population. But in Singapore, the Chinese make up more than 75 per cent of the population while the Malays make up a mere 15 per cent. The Chinese there are rich and control the economy. For this reason, we had to release Singapore because the Chinese were too numerous and controlled the island. And at that time, Lee Kuan Yew, who had initially agreed not to interfere in the political affairs of the peninsula, broke his promise by contesting in the 1964 general election in Bangsar, which led to the late Tunku (Abdul Rahman) becoming incensed and expelling Singapore.

Today, we are trying to invite Singapore to enter Malaysia by participating actively in the IDR through various incentives and investment promotions. Eventually, the Johor Malays - who would initially refuse to sell their land - would be blinded by the highly lucrative offers for their properties and sell them to the Singapore Chinese for instant wealth.

After that, where will the Malays reside? They will be driven away from the rapidly developing IDR. They won't be able to afford the costly property there and will be forced to live outside the IDR.

The IDR will then be filled with Singapore Chinese and Malaysian Chinese who can afford it.

What if their numbers exceed the Malay population? We will once again lose Malay territory to the Chinese, as had happened with Singapore previously.

What about the Singapore Government's active involvement leading to the formation of the joint ministerial committee? Is this necessary?
All this while, we had never sought anyone's assistance or advice to develop our country. We had developed Kuala Lumpur ourselves without anyone's aid. We never called on any foreign minister to advise us on how we should develop KL. We have the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) to plan and advise us on our development.
The development of Putrajaya, Labuan, Langkawi and the whole country was the result of our hands and the expertise of our people. Why must we develop the IDR by seeking advice from Singapore ministers? They are just like us. We developed this whole country without the
help of foreigners and without the advice of any foreign minister, including Singapore's.

In fact, those Singapore ministers sitting on the ministerial committee can't even make decisions without the direction and consent of the island's most powerful man, Lee Kuan Yew.
Does this mean Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi did not receive correct advice on the IDR?

I'm not sure whether or not he received correct advice. But for sure his decision (on the IDR) is wrong.

He often boasts that the idea of the IDR project is his. A leader should be responsible for every decision made, be it on the advice of others or on his own. He has the prerogative to reject incorrect advice if he thinks it is not good for the country. And if he agrees to the advice of others, it means he can't later wash his hands of the matter and say that the project was made on the advice of others because, ultimately, a premier must be responsible for all the decisions made.

If the government is not careful about securing the participation of bumiputeras, particularly Johor bumiputera businessmen, in the IDR project, they will be driven out of this rapidly developing zone because of unaffordability. What is the government's role and responsibility to ensure that they are not sidelined but are protected and, if possible, actively involved in the project?

Simple. Don't involve the Singapore government. We do it ourselves.

If they wish to invest in the IDR, we can study and consider their participation, but there's no need to seek their advice. We have our own capabilities. We have certain bodies to play their roles. Look at all the development around us (in KL) and throughout the country - it is our own effort, without foreign assistance and advice.

All the development from the time of Tunku and Tun Razak right down to me was never carried out based on the advice of outsiders. We have the EPU to advise us.

When we decided to make Malaysia an industrialised nation, we consulted the EPU and not outsiders. We can do it if we want to because that's our slogan: Malaysia Boleh. But today, it looks like Malaysia Tidak Boleh because we try to seek the advice of outsiders. What others can do, we can do. We ought to be ashamed at having to seek the advice of outsiders after 50 years of independence.

Take for instance the Petronas Twin Towers - we built them with our own capability and confidence. I visited many countries - Japan, America, Europe and other developed countries. I saw that we could build skyscrapers like them if we wanted to.

At first, many Malaysians doubted our ability to build the tallest building in the world. I said we try. Previously, our roads were built by foreign workers from India, but today Malaysian companies are invited to build roads and highways in India.

Indonesia too is developing a special economic zone encompassing Bintan, Karimun and Batam. Foreign investors particularly from Singapore are said to be actively involved. Won't this affect the development of the IDR?

That's not a problem to us. The problem is Singapore's active participation in the IDR. I was told Indonesia gave exclusive rights to Singapore to develop Batam. Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie aspired to make Batam like Singapore, but apparently it did not work out. An international airport was not even built, and its port is small. Singapore places its interest above that of other countries.

It does not really intend to develop the special zone.

Recently, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew commented that investors from Singapore could not expect privileged treatment from the Malaysian government in the IDR project. He said Johor Umno members were not pleased with Singapore's active participation in the project, similar to your views and criticisms. And even more strangely, he accused Johor Umno of no longer having confidence in PM Abdullah's leadership and of wanting to topple (menjatuhkan) him. What's your comment?

It's the right of Umno members to topple anyone. Umno members, led by Tengku Razaleigh, Musa Hitam, Radzi, Shahrir Samad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, had tried to topple me too. It's their right in a country that practises democracy. If they disapprove of a leader, we may replace him with a more qualified leader. Datuk Onn Jaafar was replaced by Tunku Abdul Rahman. And Tunku was terminated because of opposition from the people. This is common in Umno.

And the allegation about some Umno members trying to topple Abdullah may be true. Kuan Yew may have gleaned this information from those Umno members themselves who have vested interest. Many Umno members are now involved in corruption and always holidaying in Singapore. These people are smart talkers purporting to serve the religion, race and country, but doing otherwise.

You are seen as being critical and have made many criticisms against the attitude of the government and Umno members, who would rather follow the leaders without trying to censure their erroneous acts.

Today, actually there is no Umno but Umyes. Everyone says 'yes'. You can't say 'no'. At Umno meetings, no one dares speak. I tried to become a delegate to speak up but I was restricted through various means. No Umno member dares to speak up and take my side. All have become 'yes men'.

This mustn't be allowed to continue, or the Malays will become 'yes men' who dare not criticise leaders who commit mistakes. If we don't criticise leaders, they will continue to make mistakes. And if we let them be, without criticising them, it means we approve of their erroneous acts. If this happens, it spells great misfortune for Umno members and Umno itself.

You are actually angrier about PM Abdullah's scrapping of the crooked bridge project than about other issues. What do you think are the real reasons (other than those already given by the government) that caused PM Abdullah to scrap the project, which held such great potential?

The bridge is vital to Johor's development, especially in relationship to the development of the IDR. The Johor Causeway is too congested and Johor needs a new bridge (be it straight or crooked) that is modern and sophisticated to overcome the congestion which is worsening daily.

It is purported that the crooked bridge can't be built because Singapore is asking for the use of airspace and the sale of sand. But the crooked bridge has had the approval of then-Singapore PM Goh Chok Tong and it can be built if the government is truly determined to do

Why didn't the government go through with it? I received information that, actually, the Malaysian government - through a certain person - had agreed to sell sand to Singapore, but this was strongly opposed by Johor people (Umno). The straight bridge would have been built
if Johor Malays had not opposed the plan.

The issue is, if the straight bridge could not be built, we could have proceeded to build the crooked bridge on our side. But even this, the government didn't want to do. This is what I
don't understand.

There's talk that Khairy Jamaluddin's interference was the key factor influencing the PM's decision?

This I don't know, even though there are allegations that this is so. What I know is that when people ask about Khairy, the PM merely says: 'He's my son-in-law.'

There's talk among Johoreans that the crooked bridge won't be built now, but it may be considered and built if (Deputy Prime Minister) Najib becomes PM. What do you think?

That'll depend on the considerations of the prime minister (Najib) and Umno then. If he thinks it's necessary and good for the country, particularly the development and progress of Johor, he may build it. It greatly depends on the will and courage of the PM then.

Lee Kuan Yew said Singapore-Malaysia ties went through a difficult time during your rule. By 'difficult', is he referring to your actions, for instance, in the building of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), which was said to have seriously affected the earnings of Singapore's key port?

Besides your request to raise the selling price of raw water, which was unthinkable to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur International Airport's opening too had to some extent impacted the speed of Singapore Changi Airport's progress.

I had initially tried to resolve the issue amicably with Singapore, but Lee Kuan Yew refused to
yield. He was very resistant and totally refused to compromise.

Sabahans and Sarawakians can withdraw their CPF money, but West Malaysians can only do so after the age of 55. Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia. How can foreigners (Singapore) try to differentiate between them and divide our people as they like? We are one

The price of water we sell is indeed not fair - 3 sen (1.3 Singapore cents) per 1,000 gallons. Today, what can be done with 3 sen? We tried to raise the price slightly but they refused,
saying that the first agreement had lapsed.

In fact the agreement has not lapsed. How many thousand times the selling price they earn from selling water to their people? So I decided to give a financial allocation to Johor to build its own water filtration plant. This means we don't depend on buying water from Singapore.

And Johor too can sell water to Malacca at 30 sen (1,000 per cent higher than the price of water sold to Singapore). Johor too can make a reasonable profit from selling water to Malacca.

Besides this, our development of PTP has angered Lee Kuan Yew because it badly affects the income of Singapore's key ports. Singapore carries out all sorts of schemes to beat PTP. They reduce their ship-handling charges to woo the foreign businessmen using our ports. And they give financial loans to companies intending to use their port services. But PTP continues to progress and expand, which is what Singapore does not want to see. We are more progressive than Singapore because we try to beat its expertise.

The Indonesian government faces difficulty ratifying the Defence Cooperation Agreement and extradition treaty with Singapore. Singapore resolutely refuses to amend the contents of the agreements with Indonesia. What's your take?

Singapore places importance only on its own interests and not mutual interests. It does things that are more beneficial to itself than to its neighbours' interests and needs. Singapore once considered itself a Chinese island in the middle of the Malay ocean.

Mantan pengarang Berita Harian dan wartawan terkemuka, Dato’ Ahmad Rejal Arbee yang banyak menulis tentang Singapura menyifatkan negara tersebut sebagai rakan-kongsi yang tidak boleh dipercayai. Keikhlasan Singapura sentiasa dipersoalkan.

Berikut adalah artikel tulisan Dato’ Ahmad Rejal pada 18 April 2006 yang disiarkan dalam blog Dato’ Kadir Jasin dan Berita MyKMU (http://www.mykmu.net/):

Hubungan Malaysia-Singapura: Tiada guna bermesra

Sudah banyak diperkatakan berikutan dengan keputusan mengejut kerajaan minggu lalu membatalkan hasratnya untuk membina jambatan bagi menggantikan tambak yang menghubungi Johor Bahru dengan Woodlands di Singapura.

Ada yang faham dengan keputusan itu dan bersetuju kerajaan tidak mempunyai pilihan lain. Golongan ini sedar Singapura tidak akan bersetuju dengan pembinaan jambatan melainkan ia dibenarkan membeli pasir Johor bagi membolehkannya meneruskan projek menambak laut persisirannya dan jet tempurnya dibenar pula memasuki ruang udara Johor untuk latihan.

Rakyat keseluruhannya tidak mahu pasir kita dijual ke Singapura mahu pun berkompromi dengan kedaulatan negara untuk membenarkan ruang udara kita dilintasi jet pejuangnya.

Tetapi mereka juga mahu jambatan dibina menggantikan tambak kerana ia memberi faedah kepada rakyat kedua buah negara. Jambatan itu bukan saja akan melicinkan lagi perjalanan lalu lintas kenderaan antara kedua negara tetapi membolehkan air Selat Tebrau mengalir semula dan dengan itu dapat mengatasi pencemaran yang teruk di perairan Tanjung Petri. Robohnya tambak Johor juga membolehkan kapal belayar pergi balik dari Penggerang ke Kukup dan sebaliknya melintasi selat itu.

Ramai rakyat negara ini sebenarnya tidak sedar bahawa Singapura telah mengambil kesempatan cadangan jambatan untuk mendapatkan pasir bagi membolehkannya menambahkan lagi keluasan tanahnya serta mendapatkan ruang udara untuk kemudahan latihan jet-jet tempurnya.

Kita sepatutnya dari awal lagi menentang kehendak Singapura itu. Tetapi apabila kita bersetuju untuk merundingkan dua syarat Singapura itu, ia seolah-olah telah memberi gambaran kita bersedia menimbang permintaan mereka pada prinsipnya.

Jadi apa yang dirundingkan selama ini hanyalah butiran jualan pasir bagi membolehkan republik sekangkang kera itu menambahkan luas tanahnya dan sejauh mana dan kekerapan penerbangan jet-jet serangan dan tempurnya menggunakan ruang udara Johor.

Kini diketahui sudah bahawa mereka menghendakan kita menjual sehingga satu billion meter padu pasir selama 20 tahun bagi membolehkannya menambahkan luas tanahnya sehingga 1/6 daripada keluasannya sekarang manakala penggunaan ruang udara kita pula adalah untuk selama-lamanya.

Malangnya rakyat tidak mengetahui butiran tuntutan yang tidak masuk akal itu sehinggalah sekarang. Kiranya perkara ini diketahui awal-awal tentunya ramai akan mendesak kerajaan teruskan saja dengan binaan jambatan separuh tanpa perlu berunding dengan mereka. Jelas betul republik itu bersikap lebih teruk dari Belanda minta tanah.

Apabila rakyat mula mengetahui bahawa apa yang dirundingkan selama ini ialah butiran mengenai kedua-dua perkara itu, mereka semakin lantang membantah kerajaan menjualkan maruah negara ini hanya untuk membolehkan jambatan dibina. Maka sejak itu kerajaan tidak punyai jalan lain lagi melainkan membatalkan saja projek jambatan lurus.

Singapura sememangnya menghendakkan pasir untuk dapat meneruskan rancangan penambakannya. Rancangan yang dimulakan awal 1960 ketika luasnya hanya 581.5 kilometer persegi telah bertambah kepada 633 km persegi pada tahun 1990.

Hasratnya ialah untuk menambahkan lagi keluasanya kepada 820 km persegi pada 2030. Sekarang ini pun pulau itu telah mendapat jolokan sebagai “the fastest growing island” dalam dunia.

Dalam melaksanakan rancangannya itu, semua bukit bukaunya termasuk Bukit Timah sudah habis diranapkan untuk menambak beberapa kawasan di selatan dan timurnya untuk menampung permintaan kepada tanah untuk tujuan pembangunan. Kemudiannya ia telah mendapatkan pasir dari Johor tetapi bekalan ini dihentikan apabila kita mengetahui ianya digunakan untuk menambak Pulau Tekong di hadapan muara Sungai Johor hingga menjejas penggunaan Pusat Laltihan Tentera Laut Di Raja di Tanjung Pengelih.

Kini sebahgian dari rancangan penambakannya itu akan melibatkan beberapa kawasan di timur Selat Tebrau berhadapan Pelabuhan Pasir Gudang. Ini termasuk menambakan pulau-pulau Ubin dan Serangoon serta kawasan Punggol berhadapan Pulau Serangoon.

Sebelum ini ia telah mendapatkan kebanyakan daripada pasir yang digunakan untuk penambakan itu dari Indonesia. Dikatakan hampir 300 juta meter padu sejak 1999. Malang bagi Singapura sejak 2003 Indonesia juga telah mengharamkan penjualan pasir antaranya kerana beberapa buah pulau kecil dalam gugusan Riau sudah ditenggelemi air manakala Pulau Nipah juga sudah hampir ditenggelami yang akan bawa implikasi buruk terhadap sempadan laut antara Indonesia dengan Singapura.

Jadi baginya cadangan Malaysia mahu membina jambatan menggantikan tambak merupakan suatu peluang keemasan baginya mendapatkan pasir secukupnya bagi segala rancangan penambakannya sehingga tahun 2030. Itulah ia telah menyuarakan bantahan terhadap pembinaan jambatan hanya kerana mahu mengambil kesempatan mendapatkan pasir untuk kerja tambakan laut selain dari mendapatkan kemudahan memasuki ruang udara Malaysia bagi jet tempurnya.

Begitu licik sekali tindak tanduknya hingga menghendakan kita memberi satu billion meter padu pasir dalam tempoh 20 tahun dan kebenaran jet-jet pejuangnya memasuki ruang udara kita di Johor buat selama-lamanya.

Dikatakan ada pihak di sini yang sudah pun perhitung berbilion ringgit yang boleh mereka raih kiranya kerajaan bersetuju membenarkan Singapura membeli pasir dari kita. Mereka ini tidak kisah dari mana hendak mendapatkan jumlah pasir yang begitu banyaknya. Apa tidaknya kalau dikira harga pasir yang dibayar kontrektor Singapura yang mencecah S$15 bagi satu meter padu.

(Dalam hal ini pun Indonesia telah ditipu kerana dibayar sekitar S$1.53 saja bagi satu meter padu pada hal kontrektor yang menjualnya semula ke Singapura menerima S$15 bagi satu meter padu. Walau bagaimana pun pemerintah Singapura tetap dapat meraih keuntungan kerana menjual tanah yang ditambak itu pada harga S$800 sekaki persegi pula).

Sebenarnya kerajaan masih boleh membina jambatan bengkok sebagaimana disarankan Perdana Menteri keempat Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad walaupun dibantah Singapura. Malah ruang ini pernah menyuarakan biarkan jambatan bengkok itu ujud sebagai monumen terhadap bagaimana “bengkoknya” hubungan dua hala Malaysia Singapura untuk pewaris kedua-dua negara.

Tetapi apakah kita harus mengambil kira ancaman republik itu untuk melakukan sesuatu kiranya kita teruskan juga dengan jambatan walaupun dalam wilayah kita? Ada yang berpendapat terburuk, ia boleh kemukakannya kepada Mahkamah Antarabangsa. Menurut sesetengah pihak kita mempunyai alasan kukuh untuk dapat teruskannya. Apa pun opsyen ini sudah tidak bermakna lagi dalam keadaan sekarang.

Tetapi ada juga yang persoal kenapa setelah berkeras untuk meneruskan projek itu walau pun jambatan separuh (bengkok) aleh-aleh projek itu terbatal hingga kerajaan terpaksa pula menyediakan laluan baru dengan kos tambahan bagi menghubungi tambak dengan Pusat Kastam, Imigresen dan Kuarantin (CIQ).

Maka tidak menghairankan ada pihak yang menyimpul kita selalunya membenarkan Singapura menetapkan agenda dalam hubungan bersama.

Kesimpulannya ada kebenarannya juga bagi mereka yang beranggapan Singapura sengaja tidak mahu berkompromi dengan tuntutannya kerana sememangnya mereka tidak mahukan jambatan itu kerana ia akan meningkatkan kedudukan Johor Bahru sebagai hab pengangkutan darat, laut dan udara.

Kini ada yang persoalkan apakah idea membina jambatan bagi menggantikan tambak suatu yang baik. Tidak siapa boleh nafikan ia sememangnya satu perkara yang baik bukan saja bagi Malaysia tetapi juga bagi republik itu dan rakyat kedua-dua negara.

Dari apa yang berlaku Malaysia sudah sepatutnya kaji semula corak hubungan dua hala kita dengan republik itu. Sebelum ini hubungan itu dikatakan agak tegang kerana perwatakan Dr Mahathir tidak mahu berganjak dari pendiriannya. Sebenarnya Dr Mahathir waktu mula memegang tampuk kerajaan pada tahun 1981 telah berusaha mengujudkan hubungan mesra dan baik dengan republik apabila mengadakan beberapa pertemuan dengan Lee Kuan Yew ketika beliau masih memimpin pulau itu.

Malah Dr Mahathir berkata beliau telah “bend backwards” untuk ujudkan hubungan mesra itu tetapi tidak juga berhasil. Demikian juga Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi apabila menggantikan Dr Mahathir telah memulakan diplomasi golf dengan pimpinan republik itu dengan harapan mereka membalas sikap lembut kita.

Tetapi apakah hasilnya? Mereka terus saja dengan sikap sombong dan bongkak mereka. Benar kata orang harimau tidak akan hilang belangnya.

Ramai beranggapan kita saja yang terhengeh-hengeh mahu ujudkan hubungan lebih mesra. Mulai sekarang kita juga patut bersikap sama seperti mereka. Hubungan hendaknya berlandaskan apa yang betul, tidak lebih dan tidak kurang.