Johor's Sultan has accused detractors of the massive Forest City reclamation just west of the Tuas Second Link of being "jealous", and said that the 1,386ha project is a catalyst for the state's development.
Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said in an interview with the New Sunday Times published yesterday: "They politicised Forest City because they are jealous. It's a case of sour grapes."
He did not specify who he was referring to.
Forest City, a 60:40 joint venture between one of China's top developers, Country Garden, and a company the Sultan controls, will be a four-island "green" city just north of Tuas once completed within 30 years.
The project has attracted concern over damage to the environment in the area, especially from local fishermen and residents, as well as neighbouring Singapore.
When asked about Singapore's reservations about the narrowing of the Johor Strait and restricted water flow, Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that the Republic's Tuas reclamation "breached Johor's port limit by so many metres".
"If you say 'narrowing the straits', look at Pulau Tekong," he said, referring to ongoing reclamation on the island that is close to Pengerang on Johor's south-eastern coast.
But he said that "I am sure Singapore followed all the rules", adding that Johor, too, had its own plans that it needed to implement.
The Sultan called Forest City - which will have a gross development value of RM450 billion (S$167 billion) once completed - a catalyst for Johor's development, with more than 250,000 jobs set to be created. He also said it was necessary to reclaim land as "on shore, you have acquisition" problems.
"Where can I find an existing piece of land here in Johor of that size surrounded by water?"
Sultan Ibrahim, speaking ahead of his coronation today, said other plans by Johor include replacing the Causeway with a bridge to allow better flow of water along the Johor Strait.
"Let it be a landmark and we can call it the Friendship Bridge. Let the bridge show how friendly we are with our neighbours."
He also called on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to "come to my house, have tea" to discuss outstanding issues.
"When it involves two countries, it must go through the Prime Minister's Office, Wisma Putra and the Singaporean counterparts. But any discussions between Johor and Singapore, for just the two of us to agree upon, can be decided over a cup of tea."
On the legacy he wants to leave behind, the Sultan said he wants change and progress in order for Johor "to be even better".
"I want a lot of changes, including to the people's mindset," he said, singling out litterbugs who dirty places such as the crown arch in front of Istana Bukit Serene, his official residence.
This article was first published on March 23, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.