Speak up against Singapore water agreement, Dr M tells Johor govt

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivers his speech during the Johor government retreat event with Federal Cabinet ministers in Putrajaya February 28, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivers his speech during the Johor government retreat event with Federal Cabinet ministers in Putrajaya February 28, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 28 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today urged the Johor government and those in the state, to speak up against what he felt was a lopsided and “morally wrong” water agreement with Singapore.

At the opening of a discussion session between Johor government officers and members of the federal government, the Langkawi MP who is a staunch critic of the 1962 Water Agreement, termed Singapore as a “rich country” profiting off a poor country, that is Malaysia.

“Singapore depends on Johor for electricity, water and all that. If we manage these well, we will get enough profit. However now, since 1926, we sell water to Singapore at the price of three cents for 1,000 gallons — not litres, but gallons.

“This is the price of 1926, but even until now too, Singapore is still paying three cents for 1,000 gallons of raw water from Johor. We have to fight this, but it seems we are not that smart in defending or highlighting the mistreatment that is happening to us.

“Singapore is a developed country with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that has increased more than US$18,000 (RM73,200). Meanwhile, we haven’t reached US$10,000. But this rich country is buying water from a poor country at an unfair price,” Dr Mahathir lamented.

He claimed that Singapore has also been making a cool profit by pricing its desalinated water highly, but still only pay Malaysia three cents.

He said that Singapore only managed to reach its current stature owing to Johor’s water supply.

“However, I find that even Johoreans don’t speak about this. They wait for the negotiations by the federal government. The state government too seems not pressured over the three cents for 1,000 gallons payment.

“Rich man depending on poor man. This definitely is not logical, but morally wrong. We must pressure (Singapore) on this. Not just the federal government, not just our negotiators, but the people of Johor must also pressure, saying that Singapore is exploiting Johor’s water (supply),” Dr Mahathir said.

Last week, Bernama quoted Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah saying that the discussions between Malaysia and Singapore on the1962 Water Agreement are on a positive note, and that the government is optimistic about the matter, despite it needing more time before both parties agree to a deal.

“On the water issue, I and the Singapore Foreign Minister are looking for a suitable date in the near future to meet and hold further discussions. The willingness of the republic is very encouraging, compared to before when there was no progress,” he told reporters.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 19, acknowledged that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Dr Mahathir had agreed in a meeting last November 12 for government officials to have further discussions on the right to review the price of water under the said agreement.

However, it said that the discussions between Singapore and Malaysia to review their water agreement was “overshadowed” by issues of territorial waters and airspace.

“The Attorneys General of both countries subsequently met in December 2018, but their discussions were overshadowed by the new issues that had arisen over the Johor Baru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The Singaporean ministry was responding to Saifuddin, who was initially quoted by Bernama as saying, that negotiations on the review of the price of raw water that Malaysia sells to Singapore started last month.

Singapore has disputed Johor Baru’s new port limits and expanded its own port limits to overlap that of the Johor capital.

Both nations have also argued over Singapore’s proposed instrument landing system (ILS) for the republic’s Seletar Airport that will affect the airspace over southern Johor.