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Malaysia happy to connect to S'pore via MRT: Syed Hamid

By Melissa Goh, Channel NewsAsia's Malaysia Correspondent
18 May 2007 2233 hrs

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is keen on fresh negotiations with Singapore on a new bridge linking the island with the southern Malaysian state of Johor.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister says there is no better time than now to pursue the issue, with bilateral relations on the upswing.

Mr Syed Hamid Albar also says Malaysia will be happy to be connected to Singapore via the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.

He says the informal meeting between the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore on Langkawi has established a mechanism for future negotiations on outstanding issues.

"There's no better time than now when relationship is so superb, so good, to take advantage of the environment, the environment is conducive for some concrete achievements while looking at the old tracks, tracks to be resolved," he says.

Mr Syed Hamid, who is a Member of Parliament from Johor, says a new bridge between the state and Singapore will accommodate the robust development of Malaysia's southern region.

"The bridge is important, because I think we want give a different face to the southern gate to Malaysia…We are very happy to be integrated together on the MRT, and it will serve well both sides, Singapore as well as the internal Iskandar Development Region.

"At the same time, we also have hopefully our railway to Johor and from Johor connected to the other system," he says.

Mr Syed Hamid says both prime ministers will continue driving the process of negotiations on outstanding issues, "We need to go on at the highest level, Prime Minister to Prime Minister. We need to find a different mechanism and for that purpose, we will get the guidelines from our Prime Minister and Singapore's."

The two-day bilateral meeting of the two leaders was their first in three years.

Analysts hailed their decision to set up a joint ministerial committee to oversee Johor's Iskandar Development Region as a breakthrough, but some Malaysian legislators were more cautious.

While the Langkawi meeting has succeeded in breaking the ice between both the countries, lawmakers in Malaysia have voiced their concerns over the setup of a joint ministerial committee to oversee the development of the Iskandar Development Region.

Some worry that Malaysia's sovereignty may be compromised, while others raise concerns over the issue of implementation.

MP Wee Ka Siong says, "We see the political will among national leaders but when it comes to implementation this is a big challenge whether those government agencies can really follow the instructions from the top."

Mr Syed Hamid allayed such concerns, emphasising that there is commitment at the top level of both governments.

He also expressed confidence that such cooperative efforts can yield a balance of benefits for both countries. - CNA/yy

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