The crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, said the state, instead of the federal government, should decide on the water issue with Singapore.
In an interview with Channel Newsasia (CNA), Tunku Ismail said the water agreement was one between Johor and Singapore.
“At the end of the day, the water in Johor belongs to Johor,” he said. “Water is state sovereignty. When it comes to religion, land and water, it belongs to the state. Therefore, I think it’s the Johor state government (that) should decide. (I prefer) not to have federal interference when it comes to water between Johor and Singapore,” said Tunku Ismail in the interview.
In recent weeks, since the opposition Pakatan Harapan swept to power in the elections in May, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has raised the price of water as an issue which he said needed to be renegotiated with Singapore.
Singapore buys untreated water from Malaysia for 3 sen (or 1 cent in Sing dollar) per 1,000 gallons, and sells treated water to Malaysia for 50 sens.
Dr Mahathir described this as “manifestly ridiculous”, although both countries had signed the agreement on price in 1962. The deal is effective until 2060.
Under the agreement, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons of water per day from the Johor River.
In response to Dr Mahathir’s remarks, Singapore said both sides must comply fully with all the provisions of the agreements.
When asked by CNA for his opinion on the matter, Tunku Ismail said he would “have to look at it”, but said that any revision to the agreement should be a “win-win” for Singapore and Johor.
“At the end of the day, we are neighbours,” he said.
He added that he did not want a working relationship [with Singapore] that will last only for the next 10 years, but “we want it to last for the next 50 years, next 100 years.”
Commenting on the High Speed Rail (HSR) project between Singapore and Malaysia, Tunku Ismail said the HSR “is something very necessary” and that it was a “very very positive project which we should continue.”
“It will boost the economy in Johor, maybe to have more foreign investment coming in. The HSR is a very positive project that we should proceed and continue, that’s my personal opinion.”
Dr Mahathir, however, has taken a different position and has repeatedly said that the Malaysian government is reconsidering the project. In his latest remarks on the matter, he said Malaysia would like to postpone the project.
A meeting between officials from both sides are scheduled to take place “by the end of the month” to discuss the matter, according to officials.
When asked what he could do to help resolve the disagreement between Mahathir and the Singapore government, Tunku Ismail said, “There’s nothing I can do because at the end of the day it’s between the governments,” he said.