The madness of causeway jams

LIKE all things in Johor now, it looks like we have to send an urgent "SOS" to the sultan to help resolve the horrendous Causeway and 2nd Link traffic snarls of late.

When politicians and government services can't see the light of day in this protracted issue, the rakyat have no choice but appeal to the ruler to step in to help clear the endless and needless traffic jams.

It may be demeaning to drag the palace into this seemingly mundane problem, but who else but the sultan has the authority and clout to crack the whip and get those responsible to resolve this madness.

How else can you describe it when it takes a horrendous three hours to cross the Causeway and in the case of the 2nd Link, even longer.

The jam on Boxing Day at the Johor side of the Causeway stretched all the way to the Police Depot along Jalan Tebrau. The distance from here to the Malaysian checkpoint is hardly 200m. But it took an incredible two hours to reach the CIQ.

Reason? Almost an entire stretch of the passport counters were closed. At Gelang Patah, the situation was no different, with many immigration counters not open.

In case the authorities did not know, this is the peak holiday rush period. With the school break and year-end festive season, this is that part of year when multitudes of people are on the move and travelling.

At times like this, one would expect all hands to be on deck with the customs and immigration departments marshalling all available resources to manage the long queues. But not so at the Causeway and 2nd Link crossings.

Johoreans are not unreasonable. We have put up with jams at the border crossings for years. And we've come to expect some inconveniences as a token even today. But to be caught in a chock-a-block for up to three hours at a stretch is just not acceptable.

To be fair, it is no better at the Singapore end of the crossings. Since the Sydney hostage siege on Dec 15, the hyper security conscious authorities at Woodlands and Tuas have stepped up immigration and customs checks to an unimaginable level.

Passports are thoroughly screened and cars searched in a desperate bid to keep out the "bad guys".

What they fail to realise is that the majority of Malaysians, especially from Johor, who cross the border are regular travellers and not long-stay visitors; whose only reason to be in Singapore is for work, business or family.

Why subject them to such scrutiny and indignity, especially since we are supposed to be close neighbours and friends. All these make a mockery of our supposedly "strong and close" Malaysia-Singapore ties.

All Johoreans and probably also Singaporeans hope that in 2015 our political leaders will seriously discuss the snags and obstacles that make our border crossings such a painful and frustrating affair now.

It is time they resolve the most pressing issue that underpins our ties – smooth travel across our borders. This has been talked about for umpteen years with no resolution in sight.

Because the Malaysian delegations at these high-level talks are always led by Putrajaya, perhaps they don't understand the urgency to negotiate an amicable solution. Johor's input is minimal, and even then it hardly carries any weight.

It is time Johor made a strong case for a quick resolution. This issue affects the welfare of scores of our people who cross the Tebrau Straits daily.

May be this is too much to expect from our politicians. They hardly made a whimper when Singapore hiked toll and vehicle entry permit charges, despite the outcry from our people.

So, perhaps, it is only right that this petition for a dramatic improvement in Johor-Singapore crossings be taken to the top at Istana Bukit Serene. This surely makes a good New Year wish.

Roy, a long-time resident of JB, is a keen watcher of economic, political and social trends on both sides of the Johor Straits. Comments: