On Monday, July 9, government officials announced that if the high speed rail (HSR) initiative that would link Kuala Lumpur to Singapore would be cancelled, Singapore would make efforts to recover the S$250 million (RM743.95) it has already spent.
Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, has announced the cancellation of the project, but has yet to make this formal with Singapore. He has also said that discussions would be held between the two countries regarding compensation.
Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Foreign Minister, told Parliament on Monday, “Should Malaysia cause the HSR project to be terminated, we will deal with the question of compensation from Malaysia for costs incurred in accordance with the bilateral agreement and with international law,” while Khaw Boon Wan, the Transport Minister, said that costs for the project would exceed S$300 million by the end of the year, and said that this money would be fully wasted should the project be cancelled.
The HSR will potentially reduce the travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur from 4 to 5 hours down to a mere 90 minutes.
It has been Mr. Mahathir’s intent to reduce Malaysia’s debt of RM1 trillion (S$337 billion), and he made a promise to examine expensive projects that his predecessor had approved.
Unfortunately, some Malaysian netizens did not take too kindly to the announcement from Singapore, and took their grievances online, to the point of calling for the price of water sold to Singapore to be raised, or even completely cut off.
Others suggested, most likely in jest, that ties between the two countries should severed.
Malaysia and Singapore’s water agreement came into focus recently when the Malaysian Prime Minister announced he would like to re-examine the agreement, which dates back to 1962, saying that it was too expensive.
In response, Singapore said that the agreement is “a fundamental agreement that was guaranteed by both governments in the 1965 Separation Agreement which was registered with the United Nations”.
Singapore officially asked the Malaysian government for clarification on the matter on June 1, but has not yet been given an answer. If Malaysia does cancel the HSR project, the Transport Minister has said that they must seek compensation since public funds were spent on it, and therefore need to be accounted for.
Fortunately, cooler heads also spoke up on the issue on social media, saying that the best way to resolve the issue is for both governments to sit down and discuss the matter until a positive outcome is possible for both nations.