Sand, Sensibility and Singapore Bashing

by Koon Yew Yin

Every few months or so, the subject of selling sand to Singapore flares up in the media.

When this happens in the websites, the discussion takes on a polemical turn – with ‘patriots’ proclaiming how disloyal it is to sell sand to our neighbor; how we are selling out our national interests; etc.

The latest report out in the media states that a private company employed by the operator of the Tanjung Agas Gas and Oil Logistic Park in Pahang is being investigated for smuggling sand into Singapore (see

Dr. Mahathir’s Double Speak

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why there is such an irrational reaction, especially when this comes from the like of the former Prime Minister of the country.

Readers will remember that when Dr. Mahathir became the Prime Minister, he stopped sand exports.

More recently in 2010, following reports that 34 Malaysian civil servants were arrested for facilitating sand smuggling to Singapore, Dr. Mahathir condemned corrupt officials in the following way:

“What these people are doing is selling a little bit of Malaysia, dig, keep digging Malaysia and give her to other people,” he said.

This is an irresponsible statement aimed at provoking Malaysians into treating Singapore as an enemy and instigating us to hate our closest neighbor.

The fact is that during Dr. Mahathir’s time, our economy grew as a consequence of our exploitation of natural resources such as minerals, timber, forest products etc. which we sold to the highest bidder in the market.

In turn Malaysia imported natural resource products from other countries. This trade and international exchange is not only normal. It is also desirable and in the interests of all nations.

When Thailand sold us minerals or quartz products, would Dr. Mahathir want the former Prime Minister of Thailand to publicly denounce the sale and say

“What these people are doing is selling a bit of Thailand; keep digging Thailand and give her to other people.”

Safeguards Needed

Of course, we need to ensure that the exploitation of our sand and other resources is undertaken responsibly and transparently.

This means a system of open tender with the federal and state governments opening their books to the public on the licenses given out to quarries, dredging companies, timber companies, etc.; the licence fees collected; the duration of the licence; winning and unsuccessful bidders; and other key information.

All of this is missing right now in the current system of sand licences and needs to be corrected. I recommend that this be done by the Pakatan Rakyat states so that they leave behind a legacy of transparency and accountability in this important sector.

But let us not forget that the corrupt system of negotiated and closed tender and lack of transparency and accountability emerged as standard operating procedures during Dr. Mahathir’s rule.

If anyone is to be blamed for the mismanagement and abuse in the exploitation of our natural resources, the finger of blame must be pointed at our country’s present leaders.

Environmental Considerations and Public Interest

We also need to ensure that environmental concerns are fully taken into consideration before exploitation of sand and other natural resources is permitted. I have sympathy with the environmentalists who are concerned with the adverse environmental impacts of uncontrolled sand mining on our picturesque beaches.

For this reason, proper studies need to be conducted and fears of adverse environmental consequences must be addressed in an open and transparent way before any licences are given out. This is necessary for all projects including the Lynas one which has gathered so much controversy over the health and environmental concerns.

Sand Sales As Part of a Win Win Situation

About 30 years ago, Mudajaya Construction, the company I founded, was given the contract to fill up the Kelantan Medical University site with sand from Sungei Kelantan. It is a well-known fact that Kota Bahru and other towns upstream are flooded because Sungei Kelantan is clogged up with sand. Hence the contract was akin to killing two birds with one stone.

Mudajaya was also given the contract to dredge sand from Sungei Tiram in Johore for export to Singapore. The sand from the river was used to create the beach at Sentosa Resort in Singapore. In the process we not only cleared our Malaysian river and solved its flooding problem but we also generated jobs and income from the revenue received from Singapore. This is a win-win situation for our two nations.

I am now no longer associated with Mudajaya nor have I any business interest in the construction industry. However I will support exploitation of our sand resources subject to the caveats I have set out earlier. If our country can sell 50 million cu m. of sand to Singapore at Rm 50 per cu m. Singapore will pay us Rm 2,500 million which can help fill the shortfall in Government coffers. At the same time, if properly planned, the dredging can eliminate the flooding for us.

What is wrong with this business transaction if it is carried out properly and with full transparency and accountability?

For us to be jealous of Singapore’s beaches created out of Malaysian sand is plain stupidity just as it is stupid for Singaporeans to want to see the Iskandar Development fail. The fact is that economic exchange is in the interest of both countries.

A more prosperous and appreciative neighbor is always better than a poorer or disgruntled one. Let us not cut our nose to spite our face or pay heed to the ranting of politicians who are anxious to recruit others to fight their personal ends.

  1. #1 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 - 10:58 pm

    Mr. Koon, the logic of ALL things is there but their interests are based on personal agenda, M will say all kinds of thing just to preserve the interests of his family. In spite of the fact that non-MIC Indians will curse at him, generally he did help those ex-Indians who are willing to follow him. I just pity the real Malays!

  2. #2 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 - 11:55 pm

    It is when the BN Govt practise this hypocrisy that we see this rape of our natural resources benefitting well connected people.

    As any Johorean will tell you, they are inumerable number of lorries carrying sand to Singapore daily through the Causeway. One eye is closed and pockets are filled illicitly.

    BTW, there is rumour that Singapore has a huge “sand bank” that they are gradually building up their stock of sand to prepare for a rainy day when our flip flop kings might really stop the shipment of sand to Singapore.

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 5:43 am

    When they have been fed on the opium of corruption by M for so long, they have stopped thinking based on morality or even simple logic. Their on;y fear is the loss of their share. Otherwise how would you find the MP Aziz seeking to hang Ambiga when the whole world is laughing at our leadership involvement in corruption? The permissiveness of easy money has destroyed the whole institution of the society and the MadMan still talk of his glory, seeking to continue with his son? Has he got any shame when he went to Japan or Korea to talk about his grandeur idea of how to run a corrupt nation? A place when any sense of shame would cause their leaders to commit themselves to the other world? The core of corruption is so deep and embedded that they no longer feel bad about it. In which country do you find ALL Gomen Politicians retired as millionaires? Yes, there was this Singaporean who would swear and curse their leaders for the salaries they took but I reminded him that while our Ministers only earn 10% of what theirs can earn but on retirement, ALL our Ministers are guaranteed multi-millionaires! Are yours as GOOD?????

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 5:56 am

    Koon YY speaks of irrationality of treating S’pore as an enemy or aking sale of sand a big deal when “the fact is that during Dr. Mahathir’s time, our economy grew as a consequence of our exploitation of natural resources…” It is not irrational from standpoint of those like TDM who want to leverage on Malay nationalism for political purpose. You have to look at context and symbolism of things – and not just outward obvious facts of selling some natural resources to a neighbouring country. Here sand is made out to be an ‘extension” of land, to be more specific Tanah Melayu. One of the main grouses of then extremist/ultras against the first PM (for which he was removed) was that he didn’t arrest LKY for rabble rousing Malaysian Malaysia and instead gave away a real chuck of real estate of Tanah Melayu (S’pore) away to Pendatang in the South, so that they could develop separately and progressively to make us compare unfavourably today. This is considered unforgivable betrayal. Selling sand to the red dot is making it bigger by reclamation and exacerbates the first injury!

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 6:54 am

    Correction of typos in preceding post – “Making” sale of sand a big deal” in 1st sentence and “chunk” (not chuck) in 4th sentence from bottom.

  6. #6 by Godfather on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 8:34 am

    “If our country can sell 50 million cu m. of sand to Singapore at Rm 50 per cu m. Singapore will pay us Rm 2,500 million which can help fill the shortfall in Government coffers.”

    Mr Koon, you’ve been away from the corporate scene for far too long. This money goes to fill the pockets of the elite in UMNO.

  7. #7 by Godfather on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 8:50 am

    Everything that we sell to Singapore is treason. Water, sand, timber, livestock, fruits…anything that we can use to strangle Singapore is great. Mamakthir learnt from his inferiority complex during his days at University of Malaya in Singapore, and he just could not come to accept that Singapore is now one of the richest countries on this planet.

  8. #8 by Godfather on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 10:34 am

    They say that MACC is investigating this company in Pahang. Once they find out that this company is related to an UMNO Yang Berhormat, the trail will go cold, and “NFA” will be stamped on the file.

  9. #9 by Loh on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 10:44 am

    Mamakthir believes in cutting the noise to spite the face, so long as it is not his face.

    Mamakthir claimed that non-Malays should not have the facilities to learn their language to perpetuate their culture. To him, every descendants of pendatangs should be like him in giving up his own race and roots. He has given up his race, and he is now jealous of those who retain their racial identity. It is out of such jealousy that to his dying days, he is still harping on making the descendants of pendatang lose their roots. Mamakthir is a racist at heart except that he pawned his roots away long ago. He is not a true Malay racist, who would take pride in what it would be an honourable thing for the community to be proud of. He is a constitutional Malay who exploits the loophole accorded in the constitution, and he is truly an opportunist based on race.

  10. #10 by megaman on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 11:21 am

    The sales of sand to Singapore is an interesting issue.

    On one hand, Malaysia stands to benefit from the sales through international trade and currency exchange.

    However, should this sand be used to reclaim land in the Johor Straits, it could threaten the viability of the Tanjung Pelepas port or even Pasir Gudang by making the straits narrower for ships to navigate.

    Therefore, it is important to put safeguards into the sales of sands or any other material that can be used for this purpose to restrict the end utilization of this material.

    If sales of sands to Singapore have been barred or restricted due to these strategic reasons (of course it should be proven beyond any reasonable doubts), I will give my full support.

    However, if it is just political bashing to divert attention away from more important domestic issues, then shame on the person doing it.

  11. #11 by monsterball on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 11:54 am

    No need to talk about that double headed snake Mahathir.
    His twisting and turning are legendary.
    He is the main reason why some Malaysians love to be racists and not united.
    As for sales of sand or anything we see as illegal..UMNO b sees that it is their much so…after decades…they do think the country belongs to them to govern forever.
    Fooling Malaysians was so successful in the past.

  12. #12 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 12:14 pm

    Stop digging for petroleum umno, and selling them! Right now.

  13. #13 by sotong on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 - 5:06 pm

    Stop all export. We are selling our country to other countries!

    No wonder our country is being left behind by others.

  14. #14 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 28 June 2012 - 10:03 am

    Stop foreigners from coming in. They will inhale our air, keep it in their bodies and then export it back to their respective home country.

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