Putrajaya: Speaking to members of the Malaysian press on Sunday, March 3, Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad said that if Singapore takes the water price issue to the High Court, the Republic would lose the case.
Online publication Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported that the Malaysian Prime Minister said to reporters that the Republic has no desire to bring the water issue before the World Court (International Court of Justice or the International Court of Arbitration), saying, “if they go to the World Court they will lose.”
Dr Mahathir officiated the National Landscape Day 2019 celebration at the Putrajaya Botanical Gardens on March 3. Speaking to the press after the event, he said, “To go to the World Court, you must have agreement from both parties.”
He also had sharp words for Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Singapore.
In Singapore’s Parliament Committee of Supply debate hearing on March 1, Dr Balakrishnan had described Dr Mahathir’s comments on the 1962 Water Agreement as “strong, emotive words no doubt intended to rouse public opinion.”
Dr Mahathir had brought up the price of water yet again on February 28, saying, “We need to fight for this. A rich country (Singapore) (cannot be) buying water from poor countries at such an unreasonable price.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said in Parliament, “I’m supposed to be diplomatic, but I think members of this House also know I call a spade a spade. This is a red herring. The 1962 Water Agreement is not about who is richer or poorer. It is about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of agreements.”
Countering Dr Balakrishnan’s statements, the Malaysian Prime Minister said, “It is ridiculous that something agreed in 1926 – 3 sen per 1,000 gallons of water – is still being used now. At that time, it was reasonable but today, it is no longer reasonable. I want to know whether in the year 2060 it is still going to be 3 sen per 1,000 gallons and if Singapore will be selling the water at a very high price.”
Dr Mahathir also brought up the issue of whether Singapore makes large profits from developing new water via desalination. “And yet they get water from us for 3 sen and sell it for more than 1,000% profit.”
The Malaysian Prime Minister added, however, that discussions between Singapore and Malaysia are needed, since unilateral decisions cannot be made.
He said, “We will talk to them.”
Osman Sapian, Chief Minister of Johor, has also weighed in on the water issue of late. He said that the state government of Johor has plans to become self-sufficient in terms of treated water supply without the need to purchase from Singapore.
He announced that Johor is planning to stop purchasing treated water from Singapore, albeit these plans have not been finalised yet.
Johor’s Chief Minister said last Friday, March 1, “We have a plan to be self-sufficient but that is still in the planning stage and cannot be divulged at the moment.”
The 1962 Water Agreement between Singapore and Malaysia allows for the Republic to get 250 million gallons (946.3 million liters) of water every day from the Johor River at the price of 3 sen for every 1,000 gallons. This agreement is in effect until 2061.
Singapore sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per thousand gallons. The steep hike in the price of water is justified by the fact that Singapore pays for the water treatment infrastructural costs, dams and treatment plants, pumps and pipelines, including construction, operation, and maintenance costs of these, as explained in a booklet entitled Water Talks, which was put out in 2003.
According to the government, the real cost of treating the water is RM2.40 (S$ .80) per thousand gallons, which means that Singapore pays for RM1.90 (S$ .63) per thousand gallons.
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