16 June, 2009

Umno would rather ‘burn bridges’ than sell sand ?

Umno leaders say if Singapore wants sand as part of the deal for the third bridge, it’s a “no go”.

For them, whatever the benefits the construction of the third bridge may bring must not come at the expense of the country’s sovereignty.

This issue came up when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that it would not make sense for Singapore to agree on a third bridge if Johor does not lift its ban on the export of sand to the republic, which has been in place since 1997. He was speaking at a press conference during his recent trip to Malaysia.

Government officials say Najib’s administration is willing to resolve outstanding bilateral issues with Singapore and consider lifting the ban on sale of sand to the republic.

And Umno is not the only one with this view. It’s got a friend from the most unlikely of places – its arch-rival PKR is also against the sale of sand to Singapore.

PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim rejected the idea outright.

But for some, the third bridge proposal is an idea too far-fetched and the government should not even waste time discussing the sand issue.

Datuk Shahrir Samad who is the Umno parliamentarian for Johor Baru, said the government should think of ways to improve the existing bridge that links his constituency and the country to the republic instead of hollering about the third bridge.

“It’s bullshit. The government should address the many problems facing the existing bridge, like traffic congestions and so on, and not waste time on something totally unnecessary,” he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said the Singapore Government had seen the change in its two closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, with rising religiosity where more Muslims were now praying five times a day and covering themselves.

Singapore government's concern is not with specific developments in either of these countries, but with the broader and longer-term trend of Islamic resurgence, he said.

He traced the resurgence to the influence of the oil states, in particular Saudi Arabia for the Sunnis and Iran for the Shi'ites, which have set their more austere versions of Islam as the “gold standard” for other Muslim countries to follow.

Lee asked Nik Aziz what PAS's attitude to Singapore would be if the opposition party were to take over the federal government one day.

The Mentri Besar said he would treat Singapore as he treated the Chinese and Indians who live in Kelantan.

Lee also spoke to Datuk Husam Musa, Kelantan's Executive Councillor in Charge of Finance and an up-and-coming PAS leader.

Husam told the Minister Mentor that Islam treats all human beings as equal.

“Then he says: 'Well, we hope one day you will accept Islam as a part of your religion, and we will cooperate',” Lee said of his conversation with Husam.

“I told him that the Chinese have had their Muslims since the invasion of Genghis Khan... and they're still not converted, so we left it at that.”

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