Malaysia’s new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has suggested that Singapore could review the 1962 water agreement as a “goodwill gesture” in light of the fact that Malaysia is in RM1 trillion debt, in a recent interview.
Speaking to local journalist Sumiko Tan, Lim touched on water tensions between Singapore and Malaysia that 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.
Despite this, Dr Mahathir’s initial remarks triggered fears that water tensions between Singapore and Malaysia may escalate, like it has in the past.
Addressing these tensions, veteran politician Lim 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.”
Speaking on the plans for this new Malaysia, that is experiencing its very first transition of power since independence, Lim said that his country must respect basic human rights and genuine freedom of the press. This includes eradicating political party ownership of the media.
Adding that the euphoria over the change in Government is still high, Lim expressed shock at the amount of luxury goods confiscated from toppled leader Najib Razak’s properties: “When people say tiara, they thought it’s a car, Proton Tiara. Then you realise they are actually much more valuable than a car.”
Najib was arrested and charged for corruption last week. A trial is expected to take place next February.
Lim, a second-generation politician who has been detained under the Internal Security Act in Malaysia like his father, led the opposition in Malaysia for three decades until he and his Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition formed the government in the last election.
Noting that it would have been “too late” for the nation to recover if the Barisan Nasional had formed the government once again, Lim said, “If we waited one more round, there’s nothing left to save.”
In the same interview with Tan, Lim indicated that he wants Malaysians working in Singapore to return to their homeland. Read his comments on the matter here: