According to Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister, the government will continue to honor the 1962 Water Agreement with Singapore. He reiterated though that re-negotiating the High Speed Rail project between the two nations should be taking top priority at the moment.
The Foreign Minister said “Water is like our nerve system. We honour our nearest neighbour. Malaysia and Singapore have always enjoyed that special relationship. The idea is how we go about to continue from where we have stopped in the negotiation.”
“Nothing concrete” has been determined concerning the water deal, he added.
Mr. Saifuddin, who is expected to visit Singapore in August, said that the HSR will be discussed among government officials next Tuesday, July 31.
He said that the HSR project is foremost in the government’s priorities. “What is immediate and urgent is to resolve the HSR story. We understand certain parts of the agreement will confine us to more or less agreeing to continue, but again, these are things that we want to negotiate. I believe that our Singapore counterpart will understand some of the difficulties the new government is faced with as far as this project is concerned.”
In June, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, announced that his government could possibly review the terms of the water agreement, describing them as uneven, even as he also said that the water deal was not high in his administration’s agenda. His comments, however, were immediately criticized by Singapore.
The government of Singapore has encouraged Malaysia to stick to the water agreement.
Dr. Mahathir’s attitude toward Singapore was less than friendly in the past, when he served as Prime Minister between 1981 and 2003, reflecting the sometimes rancorous separation between Singapore and Malaysia in 1965.
Dr. Mahathir had said in May that the HSR project would be scrapped in an effort to lessen the national debt left by his predecessor, but there have been conflicting statements from the Malaysian government since then concerning the future of the high speed railway project linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, and considerably decreasing the travel time between the two cities.