- The proposed Strait of Malacca bridge: Linking or breaking the region?
- Australia's U-turn on human rights?
- Umno's directions
- Is money politics dead in Umno?
- Maznah - a classic dark horse
Posted: 23 Sep 2013 09:48 PM PDT
The Strait of Malacca bridge project connecting Teluk Gong in Malacca and Dumai in Indonesia. Source: Strait of Malacca Partners Sdn Bhd.
Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli & Wan Izatul Asma Wan Talaat
The groundwork for the project started since 2006 and studies show that the bridge project is technically feasible. If the project is carried out, the bridge has been estimated to cost US$12.5 billion. The Import-Export Bank of China has agreed to finance 85% of the total cost of the bridge project.
This proposed 127.92km-long bridge is said to be capable of fostering new economic opportunities between the two countries particularly in stimulating trade and the tourism industry. Malaysia will undertake to build 48.68km of the bridge while Indonesia will construct the remaining 79.24km.
However, the Indonesian government has announced that they would give priority to the construction of Strait of Sunda bridge over the Strait of Malacca bridge. The Indonesian government intends to first integrate Java-Sumatra as a centre of economic development with the Sunda bridge project.
The Oresund Bridge
The proposed Strait of Malacca Bridge is likely to resemble the Oresund Bridge that connects the Danish capital of Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmo in Sweden. The 16km combined bridge and tunnel stands over the Oresund Sound and connects both nations by road and rail, and it was officially opened to public in June 2000.
When the construction of the bridge over Oresund Sound was proposed, it received adverse criticism from the shipping community as it was thought that it would hamper shipping flow in the Oresund Sound. As a result, Germany submitted a proposal to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to suspend the construction of the bridge.
As a compromise, Sweden suggested that the bridge should be designed in two features; half a bridge and half a tunnel. This compromise was advocated to allow bigger ships to navigate across the Oresund Sound.
It resulted in the increase of the construction expenditure of the bridge to three times more than the cost that was budgeted for in the original plan. Currently the Oresund Bridge carries six million vehicles per year with the railway link transporting eight million people annually across the Oresund Sound.
Besides the Oresund Bridge, the proposed Strait of Malacca bridge will also resemble the proposed 18km Fehmarn Belt Bridge that will connect Germany and Denmark and cut journey times between Copenhagen and Hamburg. This project, that has received opposition from environmentalists and local authorities in German, calling it to be unnecessary, is expected to be completed in 2018.
Given the busy nature of the Strait of Malacca, it is likely that similar impacts to the Oresund Bridge experience, would occur if the Strait of Malacca bridge plan were to be implemented and it is likely that any proposed modifications to the plan would also substantially increase the price of the construction of the bridge.
It is anticipated that such a huge project would not only adversely affect the coastal ecosystems on both shores of the bridge; it would also affect the Strait as a whole, from hydrological, environmental and economic perspectives.
The movement and speed of currents would be changed by the existence of pillars holding up the bridge, and could potentially alter the nature of the Strait. For example, the seabed ecosystems of the areas where the bridge would be erected would suffer from adverse impacts as a result of piling works and the placement of construction materials.
From the environmental perspective, the project would encroach the nesting grounds of the hawksbill turtle as the construction site of the bridge on the Malaysian side would be around Padang Kemunting, an important nesting area for this species of marine animal.
Given the fact that the construction of the Bridge would itself alter the seabed ecosystems of the Strait, it has the potential to negatively impact the fisheries activities and the marine and coastal tourism industry in that area.
Disrupting shipping traffic
The construction would have the effect of closing down a large portion of the TSS areas of the Strait of Malacca, which would result in potential navigational hazards for ships and thus, hamper traffic flow through the waterway.
The construction and presence of the bridge with its many concrete pillars would not only reduce the speed of vessels sailing through the Strait but would also cause difficulty for large container vessels and oil tankers navigating through this area. Slower movement of shipping traffic would cause congestion in the Strait and this may eventually lead to maritime accidents.
Spills of oil, chemical and noxious substances from such accidents could jeopardise the sensitive marine environment of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. It would also mean that transits by shipping traffic would take a longer time higher shipping costs increases prices for products sold in markets worldwide.
Tsunami and earthquake threats
Upon completion, the bridge would connect the Malay Peninsula with the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Malay Peninsula is located on a stable continent which is outside the Pacific Ring of Fire. Sumatra, however, is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area with major seismic activities, and is exposed to the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis.
The 2004 tsunami incident that ravaged Aceh manifestly demonstrated that the region is exposed to these kinds of natural calamities. Should the bridge take a direct hit from another tremor or a tsunami, it is likely to be badly damaged.
The economy of both Malaysia and Indonesia would suffer adversely should the bridge collapse entirely or in parts. Shipping transits in the Strait would be hampered with the debris of the shattered bridge dispersed through the Strait and economic activities such as fisheries and tourism would be heavily impacted.
However, the proponent of the project, the Strait of Malacca Partners Sdn Bhd contended that the site of the bridge is located on a Eurasian plate outside any fault line. Though there is an unfavorable seismic zone approximately 100 km away from the project site, there has been no known record of active or frequent seismic activities in the last ten thousand years.
Linking or breaking?
Another issue which arises is whether the bridge could really foster economic benefits for both countries. Would the level of cost involved in constructing the bridge be justified by subsequent usage?
The cost of constructing the bridge would result in high debt liabilities for both Malaysia and Indonesia which would be passed on to bridge users in higher tolls. In contrast to the Oresund Bridge in the Scandinavian region, both Malaysia and Indonesia are developing States and do not enjoy the relatively high standards of living of Scandinavia.
If the toll imposed on the bridge is too expensive, the public at large may refrain from using it and may revert to using ferries and boats to cross the Strait of Malacca.
In terms of tourism, the bridge may attract more tourists into both countries but this cannot be guaranteed. With the tropical weather conditions which are common in both Malaysia and Indonesia, thunder storms are a natural phenomenon in the evening. Driving across the Strait would be dangerous in this type of weather.
If there is not much vehicle traffic on the bridge, drivers may likely then be exposed to hijacking and other criminal activities like highway robberies and carjacking. The substantial length of the bridge which is likely to be up to 127.92km would make it difficult for the authorities to maintain the safety and security of drivers.
Posted: 23 Sep 2013 09:39 PM PDT
Murray Hunter, Asia Sentinel
Australia's Sept. 20 refusal to grant the Malaysian political activist and lawyer Haris Ibrahim a temporary visa may indicate a new attitude on the part of the Abbott government to go out of its way to placate Southeast Asian governments on human rights and civil liberties in the interests of government-to-government relationships.
Posted: 23 Sep 2013 09:17 PM PDT
Another factor that will determine the party's future is whether it will cooperate with PAS. If PAS were to withdraw from the opposition pact, the extreme rightists within the party will be even more fearless.
Lim Sue Goan, mysinchew.com
Whether you like it or not, over the next five years the helm of the country is still held in the hands of Umno.. The upcoming Umno elections will decide how the party is going to respond to its loss of support from urban, Chinese and young voters, and which way will the party be headed to come the 14th general elections.
Firstly, Najib has won unchallenged, showing that he is tactically smarter than his predecessor Tun Abdullah.
Having failed to secure two-thirds majority in 2008 general elections and the state administrations of Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah, Abdullah was facing threats of unseating him. He later handed over the stewardship to Najib a year later.
In the 13th general elections, Najib not only failed to get back the two-thirds majority, BN also won seven fewer parliamentary seats than in 2008 while Selangor remained strongly in the hands of Pakatan.
However, Umno's overall performance was better than in 2008, winning 88 seats (nine seats more) while recapturing Kedah and retaining Perak.
Voices against Najib were heard after the elections, including those accusing him of trying to please non-Malay voters, but like former PM Mahathir has said, there are no more suitable persons to lead Umno now besides Najib.
Najib has tried to keep at bay opposing forces from the conservatives within the party, keeping at very low profile over various sensitive issues while throwing out the bumi economic empowerment policy on the eve of the nomination day, allowing him to finally win unopposed.
Najib has displayed a very high level of political mastery, patience and political mobilisation to smoothly sail past the first GE under his steersmanship and party elections.
Although the two top posts remain unchanged, given the overall younger trend in the leadership, Umno inevitably enters a new phase of takeover, but who will be the heirs to the future leadership?
The deputy president, in accordance with party traditions, will naturally take over the baton and Umno has all the time avoided to see contests of top party posts with the rare exception of the party elections in 1993 where Anwar's "Wawasan" team managed to force deputy president Ghafar Baba to a corner. As if that is not enough, Mahathir changed three deputies during his presidency.
The power to challenge the deputy president has always lied with the PM. When Tun Hussein Onn was the prime minister, he picked Mahathir over Tengku Razaleigh. Consequently, Muhyiddin, who is older than Najib, could be challenged three years from now.
To become the rightful heir to the throne, a person must be firmly seated in vice presidency. There are six candidates vying for the three positions in this year's party elections, namely the three incumbents home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, defence minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and rural and regional development minister Mohd Shafie Apdal, along with three challengers Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir, former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohd Isa Abdul and former Melaka chief minister Mohd Ali Rustam.
The three incumbents have an edge, being from the major states of Perak, Johor and Sabah. That said, a chief minister or menteri besar has better control over the votes in the state than a federal minister because many local officers have been appointed directly by the state chairmen. Moreover, there is the tradition of vote swapping in Umno's elections. For instance, state "A" and state "B" will reach some accord in private where central delegates are instructed to support each other's candidates.
Posted: 23 Sep 2013 01:14 PM PDT
Nur Jazlan in his posting noted: "I remember my late father Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat as party secretary-general at one time revealed that in the 1993 Umno elections, the then rising star Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim invested RM1 million each to 90 division leaders in his bid to become deputy president of the party and also to put him in line for No 1 and prime minister."
Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, MM
Ultimately the maths is out: It takes around RM13 million to win a seat as vice-president in Umno and about RM1.6 million as supreme council member.
This is of course on the assumption that "money", like many times previously, will fly around when 146,000 delegates set out to vote for their leaders next month in the all new broad-based Umno election process.
Posted: 23 Sep 2013 12:50 PM PDT
Datuk Maznah Mazlan's entry into the race for the Wanita Umno leadership has changed the game and incumbent Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil cannot take things for granted.
Joceline Tan, The Star
Azalina has gone from being a challenger to being a member of the Shahrizat juggernaut, and that says a lot about Shahrizat's political clout.
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