Malaysia wants a review of water agreement with Singapore

Dr Mahathir says Lee was willing to listen as the PM raised some issues that were regarded as controversial in the past

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic BERNAMA

Malaysia has requested to renegotiate the water agreement with Singapore, which the government views as lopsided and does not represent the current economic reality.

The contentious 1962 water arrangement, which has been a thorn in the Malaysia-Singapore relationship for decades, was highlighted by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his discussion with Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said it is the current government’s stand to renegotiate the agreement with Singapore.

He said his Singaporean counterpart did not provide any immediate response to the proposal. But Dr Mahathir was happy that Lee was willing to listen to the Pakatan Harapan government’s stand on the matter.

“They did not agree, but at least they were willing to listen to our case and then state their case,” he told the Malaysian media here yesterday.

Dr Mahathir is on a two-day official visit to the island republic, which began yesterday. The PM will also participate in the 33rd Asean Summit and Related Summits in the republic.

“We raised some of the issues that in the past were regarded as controversial. I thought that I had to state our stand on it…by and large, he (Lee) was accommodating.

“He listened to my views and I think he is more open to discuss these things now than before. Before this, they rejected all efforts to renegotiate things,” said Dr Mahathir.

The Pakatan Harapan government, since taking over the country’s leadership in May, has voiced the need to correct the water deal, which Putrajaya deems unfair.

Dr Mahathir had previously said that Malaysia felt the 1962 water agreement was lopsided, with unrealistic raw water selling price, to suit the current economic environment.

In an interview with Bloomberg in June, Dr Mahathir said the price of water sold was ridiculous.

Under the water agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore can draw 250 million gallons of raw water daily from Malaysia at three sen per 1,000 gallons. A portion of the water is treated and sold back to Malaysia at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Singapore has always maintained that Malaysia lost its right to review the price of raw water sold under the 1962 agreement in 1987, based on a clause which states the price can be amended on the 25th year of agreement enforcement.

The water agreement had been one of the issues of contention when Dr Mahathir was the PM the first time.

On how Malaysia will move forward on the water deal, Dr Mahathir said discussions will be held at senior officials’ level to iron out the details.

The longstanding restrictions on Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) withdrawals by Malaysians living in Peninsular Malaysia was also highlighted during the meeting with Lee, the PM said.

But Dr Mahathir did not talk about the proposed third bridge connecting both the nations. Recently, the idea of the bridge, a “crooked” link proposed by Dr Mahathir before he stepped down in 2003, had resurfaced.

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