Singaporeans responding to foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s appeal, that Malaysia should stick to the water agreements it made with Singapore in the 60s, felt that the minister should be more empathetic towards our neighbours across the causeway.
This, after Balakrishnan addressed water tensions between Singapore and Malaysia in Parliament yesterday. Tensions appear to have resurfaced since Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad led the opposition to an unprecedented victory at the Malaysian polls in May and broke the former ruling party’s six-decade grip on power.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Dr Mahathir singled out water as one of the issues Singapore and Malaysia need to iron out in the future as he revealed, “they are still paying 3 sens for 1 thousand gallons. And once the 1000 gallons is returned we can buy back 12 per cent of that. At the same time they can sell 100 gallons for 17 Singapore Dollars. That is a lot of money.”
The Malaysian leader’s comments prompted Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assert that Malaysia must “comply fully” with the water agreements it has struck with Singapore. Dr Mahathir later said that it is not urgent to review the matter now and added that the Pakatan Harapan government has not discussed about the issue yet.
Asserting that both countries must fully respect the water agreements, Balakrishnan said yesterday that the water agreements are linked to the 1965 separation agreement that defines Singapore’s “very existence as a sovereign independent state” and cautioned:
“Any breach of the 1962 Water Agreement would call into question the Separation Agreement, which is the basis for Singapore’s very existence as an independent sovereign state.
“Singapore will fully honour the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, including the price of water stipulated, and expects Malaysia also to do so.”
The Minister added that the authorities will defer to international law should disputes over the water agreement arise. He also claimed that this issue has to do with Singapore’s reputation as a reliable country: “This reputation, for Singapore, developed over decades, is crucial for our political and economic space,” he said.
Locals responding to Balakrishnan’s remarks felt that Singapore would be trying to review the agreements if it were in Malaysia’s shoes.
While some agreed with the establishment’s stance, several others asked why the people are paying local Ministers million dollar salaries to just bicker with Malaysia about water instead of coming up with a self sustainable water programme over the years:
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has suggested that Singapore take another look at the water agreements as a gesture of goodwill. He added: “I mean, it wouldn’t cause you to go bankrupt and it wouldn’t even put a dent in your GDP. It will generate a lot of goodwill.”