Many bridges will be built.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi believes that in the future there will be many bridges linking Johor and Singapore.

He said “One day, there will be many bridges like there are in New York, Manhattan and even in Korea”.

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(There are 2,027 bridges in New York City and 27 in Seoul over the River Han).

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Perhaps, our PM is mentally preparing himself for the forthcoming visit of the ‘RDC’ prime minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, for bi-lateral talks on Monday 14th May ’07 in Langkawi which will include a lunch fete aboard a luxury cruise liner on the next day.

Forget about 2,027 or even 27 bridges when AAB could not get the ‘scenic’ bridge built to replace the aging and congested causeway last year. Technically, it would have become the ‘second’ bridge because the Second Link is after all, a bridge too, which was built during TDM’s tenure. If the reason not to proceed with replacing the causeway was due to potential legal problems, has this ‘problem’ now become ‘manageable’? If so, it would lead to the issues of ‘trade-offs’ i.e. there are outstanding issues on water agreement(s), the KTM landbank (which is estimated to be worth S$4 billion – undeveloped) and of course, RDC’s involvement with WPI construction.

Furthermore, word is spreading that although sand has been banned from being exported to the island nation, another category of ‘island-building’ materials has made its way there during the past two months. It’s called ‘hydraulic fill’ and Gerbang Ruhanie has the ‘lowdown’ on this matter.

Meanwhile, the MSM have gone to town highlighting the ‘warm’ relations between the two countries and at RDC’s request for bi-lateral ties be taken to a higher level, a ‘get-together’ was organised with no agenda nor script. Are we paying the PM to have leisurely discussions and equally leisurely lunch cruises with another visiting head of state, in the hope that in between mouthfuls of goatcheese-stuffed lobsters and pan-fried sauteed Kurau, somehow affairs of state will be uttered?

And if I am not mistaken, AAB has been warming up to Singapore since 2005 with his golf junkets and ‘pat on the back’ type of leadership, and we are still not having a mutually beneficial relationship with RDC.

Oh well, we may not have an official joint commission with RDC like we do with other Asean nations to discuss bi-lateral ties but this up-coming ‘get-together’ gives new meaning to the phrase “the proof is in the eating”.

Burning bridges

Still on the subject of Building Bridges, there was supposed to be another up-coming international event which may not come into fruition.

In Star’s news report on 12th May ’07, The Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) has appealed to the Government to review the withdrawal of its support for the Building Bridges seminar that has been scheduled for this week (7th – 11th May ’07), the sixth of the series of conferences. The withdrawal was formally conveyed to the organisers, barely three weeks prior to the scheduled dates.

The latest news report, however, has AAB saying that the conference has been postponed, not cancelled. Does this mean that the government’s official support will be re-instated?

The seminar would have brought together over 30 world renowned Islamic and Christian scholars and theologians to deliberate under the theme ‘Humanity in Context: Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Being Human’.

Building Bridges seminars have been held in London, New York, Qatar and Sarajevo, and the organisers were excited at meeting in Malaysia, as the context would provide the international scholars exposure to the achievements of Malaysia in encouraging inter-faith dialogue at the national and international levels. Preparations for the ‘aborted’ seminar began about a year ago after the organisers’ London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury received a formal letter from the Malaysian government welcoming such a seminar.

Preaching at a sermon in a hastily convened visit to Sri Lanka, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury said “We must keep our bridges in good repair, the bridges for listening and sympathy, hearing the truth from one another, learning what the other’s experience is like” when he outlined the terrible consequences of fear caused by division.

Professor Mona Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Study of Islam at Glasgow University, said “Many of us were rather distressed about it. These conferences are important on many levels. Malaysia would have been a litmus test to see how the mix of different religions and different ethnicities worked. I do not know exactly what happened, except there was contention at the highest level in Malaysia”.

I suppose AAB’s Islamic Hadhari concept precludes the need to build bridges within the hearts and minds of humanity.