Sunday, January 20, 2008

2nd Penang Bridge: The Real Story Behind It!

As per my normal routine 6 nights a week, I surf the net for news which may be beneficial to Malaysians. Tonight, was no exception. And one news item that caught my attention most was the Penang Global City Project which will cost a whooping RM25 billion! It is a mega city project which the government has now asked the developers to scale down, but only after the public made complaints. And what, you may ask, would the complaint be about?

Well, if you are not a Penangite, it would be understandable if you do not understand. And its not that I do myself since I too am not one. But then logic would simply point out towards the traffic congestion which sadly, the Pearl of The Orient is now more famous for. If you want to know more about this, there is none better to ask but Cikgu Nazir. However, since you are still reading this, it just simply mean I have to continue on rambling. Where were we...? Oh, the traffic problem!

Right. As logic would simply point out, the more residential or office complexes one build without improving the traffic system which would include the widening of new roads or building new ones, the roads would be crammed with vehicles that even a snail may go sailing by. That is, off course, an exaggeration. What I'm trying to say is, why does the government need to have the public make a complaint before deciding on such matters? I mean, they have town planners, state planners, national planners, but sadly it seems, all without any plans.

To be fair, I think those civil servants are doing a good job. Its just that...well, you have those politicians in powers who are not! And that is a fact I think many Malaysians can agree to. And I'm quite sure if you were to ask the civil servants on the matter, they will reply with a resounding aye.

The last time I drove to Penang Island, crossing over the narrow straits on what used to be the 3rd longest bridge in the world, I had a mixed feeling about it. The first, was my patriotic pride feeling awe about the bridge that may one day equal the fame of The Golden Gate in San Francisco. The other feeling was that of...claustrophobia and acrophobia; being crammed in a car that was not so literally inching its way across the bridge. The acrophobia? Well, the bridge is rather high for the liking of someone who is afraid of heights.

Anyway, when the news came that the 2nd bridge is in the offing, I was one non-Penangite who was very happy about it. Seriously! And I was pinning for a bridge with lower heights and perhaps this time, built by Malaysians, and for Malaysians, much unlike the first bridge. But then woe me when I was told by a certain someone about the real story behind the 2nd bridge. And like it or not, since you are already reading this, my best bet is that your curious mind will force you to read on.

It was sometime after Isyak, some 10 years ago. I had attended a small kenduri Du'a Selamat in Taman Tun Dr Ismail when I was introduced to a gentleman of quite reasonable stature. As per normal in many Du'a Selamat I have been to, the guests were offered a light refreshment while the host lay the dinner. And it was during that time I was fortunate to be within the earshot of a conversation between the gentleman I mentioned was having with some other guests. And to save you time you may already wasted reading this entry, we shall dispense of all non-necessary part of the conversation, and I will quote the gentleman verbatim. You must understand though, the gentleman being who he was, the conversation was more like a monologue.

"Aaah, the Penang Bridge! It is true, what you've read...the Malaysian government will be building the 2nd bridge soon. But it is not as what you may think, I fear. For I was one of the people involved at the highest stage of planning. Mind you, it was not that I am or was an important figure on such matters, merely being a stand in for some people whom I dare not mention here.

I believe most of you might have been made aware of the announcement by the government on the cost of the 2nd bridge. Well, baloney! Do not for a second believe them! The 2nd bridge is being built free of charge, courtesy of a mistake made by the contractors of the first bridge. Shocked, are you? Well, don't be as I do have a secret to share with you.

Back when the first bridge was in the initial planning stage, foreign contractors and designers were invited to submit their proposals in a very hush-hush open tender. The Works Minister then who still is now, asked the bigots - that's us on the 2nd echelon of decision making and planning - to pick 5 of the best offer in terms of design and off course, the cost. And so we narrowed it to contractors with designers from South Korea, Japan, the US, Germany, and India. Each of these contractors were chosen to hand in their final proposal based on their unique capabilities and standings. And these are:

South Korea - for the Engineering expertise they have in construction.

Japan - for the innovations they have produced in almost all the fields they stick their nose into.

the US - for the grandeur planning they always come up with.

Germany - considered the masters of technology breakthrough and designs.

India - now, this is a rising star in the world of construction and engineering. Almost a dark horse in the race, but for their connections know who.

And so it was on the day of presentation, each company were given no more than 30 minutes to present. Since I was lucky enough to be one of the few bigots present during the day, I was privy to the information I am passing to you now.

All the companies were alloted time in accordance to the order I mentioned earlier, and each presented their case to their best of efforts. Why, if you were there, you might have shed a tear yourself, looking at the almost desperate presentation they each gave, which is almost akin to some final year physics students who really have not a single clue at what they were doing.

Anyway, when the day was nearly halfway through, the company from India came into the room. Though I was informed, I was nevertheless quite surprised as instead of a single company, there were 2 from India; both companies were related by blood it seems - one the father, the other the son. And in they came and presented to the Works Minister.

The Minister, when India presented the plan, gave a shocked look initially. But somehow, the Indians pulled out their Ace that sent the Minister into a...shall we say, euphoric reaction? And almost as suddenly, he came back to his normal state of mind, grabbed both the Indians and began walking out of the room while at the same time asking us bigots to follow. We had no idea where he was going, but follow him we did.

When we finally reached to Minister's destination, he asked us to open the huge door, revealing a large room, a very large room in fact, where we found the Prime Minister then was waiting rather patiently for us. He was, after all, enjoying himself to a bowl of freshly fried masalode, or something of such equivalent; not being a connoisseur of food, I failed to observe entirely.

The Minister showed the Indians to a small conference table and then called on the PM to join. Upon joining, the Ministers then asked to Indians to give a brief presentation to the PM.

'Your excellency' said the senior of the Indian, 'we are 2 companies here, one father, one son. If we get this project, we will begin works simultaneously from both ends of the bridge - my son will begin works on the island and I from the mainland.' At this stage, the PM was already rubbing his chin.

'Our companies are well known for revolutionary construction works, and while we may have not built a single bridge before, we are confident we will halved the construction time," said the father. Without waiting for reply, he continued "You see, if we both work from both ends, we will then meet in the middle and complete the project in record time," with almost a look of glee on his face.

But the PM being a person well endowed with many knowledge including some about physics, pulled the Minister one side and asked "Sam, I really don't know about this. What if, just what if they begin building and something go wrong?"

The Minister, being a man not short of words, replied almost immediately "But what could go wrong my friend? You asked me to pick the best, and I think these Indians here are the best!"

"Well," the PM then said "what if the two ends don't meet?"

The Indians who were creeping to hear the PM and the Minister's discussion quickly interrupted "Your excellency, do not worry. My son hold a Masters in Physics and I in Engineering! We THINK, we will join both ends together in the middle of the straits."

"And what if you don't...?"the PM shot back.

"Well...," the senior Indian tried to reply while looking at his son.
"We will!" shouted the son. "If we do not, then you will have 2 bridges for the price of one!"

"As you know gentleman, the first bridge did have a serious construction flaw, one which was foreseen by the PM, but was well hidden from the public. And that is precisely how we got the building of the 2nd bridge going! Oh! I must be going now," said the gentleman.

As the gentleman got up from his chair, he gave a look around before walking off to his car. The other guests who were listening intently, each had a strange look on their face. It was as though they were in a state of shock. And I could swear, even as the gentleman walked off, I heard something like a snicker from him...almost humorous yet evil in nature.


Fatin said...


I am not impressed by the attitude of this gentleman of telling the public about agendas in government meeting. This is not a professional attitude, for me. I don't know much about professional ethiquette in the government service, but I think we only discuss stuff to people involved, not generally everyone, unless those who are listening there are part of the planning committee. ALLAHU'alam.


cakapaje said...


Fatin, you should read the label dear :)

Kata Tak Nak said...

I knew there was something amiss here.

Talking about urban legends, here in Penang, everytime when a big project especially bridges, there will be rumours of a penunggu demanding the heads of young boys. The first bridge it seemed claimed quite a few heads. If these sacrifices are not made, the project would meet with disaster. Is it the same elsewhere?

cakapaje said...

Salam Cikgu,

Before I touch on the urban legend stuff, I just would like to state here that this urban legend I wrote is not of my own design. The kenduri I attended is true, as was the gentleman. What is not though, his occupation and the story he told. Off course when in verbal form, one can catch from the expression of the face and the voice, that he was telling a joke. But he did leave several mouths gaping :)

About the heads of young children, yup, its the same in Melaka and northern Johore. I remember it quite well how parents use to scare their kids to stay obedient by narrating such stories. At that point of time, the Batu Pahat bridge and Muar Bridge was about to be built, or thats how my emak said to me. The same story was quite rampant in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan, when we were there. Going by these, I guess it should be a nationwide thing.

Anonymous said...

Engineering and Physics are precision science that take years to master. The moment you put the word 'think', the should have been a dead giveaway.

tokasid said...

Salam Shah:

Thank ALLAH I'm not living in Penang.
My occassional crawl in KL pun dah tak tahan.
My good friend Don had lived in Penang for almost 15 years and the stories about the Penang,esp Penang bridge crawl gives me the creep.
He told me you better pray that there is no accident there be it big or small. And better no frustrated lover trying to do a bungee jump there. It these thing happens your are as good as checking in a hotel,in your car over there.

Why am I not suprised if there was and still hanky panky with whatever that been bulit in Malaysia?

Fatin said...

This is made up?

cakapaje said...

Hi Anon!

Thank you. You're a bright one, aren't you? :)

cakapaje said...

Wa'alaikumusalam Doc,

That's not fair Doc, you should try the drive across :) Sayang ek, belanja berbillion tapi come back to square one. Lebih baik pakai feri je...tu pun depa nak tutup pasal nak lakukan tol kat jambatan tu.

Why are you not surprised? Hmm...because there's too much corruption in armno and be end? :)

cakapaje said...


Yes, the entire thing about the bridge is not true. But I did not make up the story, it was that gentleman who managed to pull quite a number of people's leg. Seem you are now included :)

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

fuhh...that was a long read. and i was almost been made a donkey out of me, till ofcos, i read your reply to fatin...hehehehe...i missed the label myself.

eh shah, urban legend is quite an interesting topic to touch on, dont they? i mean, since we're in the topic, when i was a dumb kid, i was told the pillars of the penang bridge were made from a mixture of cement and beheaded skull of mischievous kids, supplied by benggali on bicycle. hehehe...this is part of urban legend too, right?

cakapaje said...

Salam kerp,

Hey bro, you too nearly fell for it? lol! Tu lah, lain kali go wheeling, watch the labels :)

Yup! That's part of urban legend too. Cikgu mentioned this as well, and now you. Wait...hang on! Is there something going on...I mean is there a new bridge being built somewhere I don't know? Alamak...think I'm going to wear an iron body armour lah, especially around my neck! :)

But seriously, urban legends are nice...depending where you look at it from lah. For me, it can be a source of fun looking back at the way societies of the past think. Then only - as cliche as it may sound - you can judge whether a nation's modernisation encompass the minds as well or merely physical changes to the landscape of a nation.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

eh ya lah, even cikgu touched on the well-known local urban legend. that makes the benggali on bicycle a mythical character. maybe you could write soething about UL, shah.

cakapaje said...


We - as in WE - are an urban legend ourselves! lol! :)