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Singapore ex-Ambassador: Mahathir is raising water issue as diversionary tactic for cancelling HSR project

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In speaking to Bloomberg’s Haslinda Amin, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that he intends to revisit the longstanding issue of water with Singapore leaders.

The following is a transcript of Dr Mahathir’s interview with Bloomberg on the topic:

“Haslinda Amin (HA): Malaysia shares its waters with its closest neighbour – Singapore. Are relations better now than before?

Dr Mahathir (DrM): Relationship with Singapore is quite okay because we cannot deny the fact that they are our nearest neighbour. But there are certain issues that we need to settle, and I think we can negotiate the settlement of these issues.

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HA: What are these issues?

DrM: Among them is water.

HA: What is the sticking point?

DrM: Well, 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.

HA: Is there a resolution in sight. Where are negotiations right now?

DrM: We will sit down and talk with them like civilised people.”

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Mr Bilahari Kausikan former top officer at Singapore’s foreign ministry and ex-Ambassador-at-large, said Dr Mahathir was raising water issue “only as a diversionary tactic in preparation to ask for a waiver or reduction of the compensation due to us if he formally cancels the high-speed rail project.”

Writing in his Facebook, Mr Bilahari said:

“Here we go again.

The good doctor knows full well that the price of water was set by an international agreement under the terms of which Malaysia also buys treated water from Singapore at a low price, and buys considerably more than it is entitled to buy under the terms of the agreement. Why should it do that unless it is getting a good deal?

We have gone through this umpteen times when he was last PM. He knows we are not going to change our position.

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The reason is simple: if we allow Malaysia to change the terms of solemn international agreements anytime the terms of the agreement become inconvenient to them, where will it end?

Dr M knows all this. I think he is raising water only as a diversionary tactic in preparation to ask for a waiver or reduction of the compensation due to us if he formally cancels the high-speed rail project.

His intention is to make the Singapore government look unreasonable hoping, first, that Singaporeans will pressure our government on his behalf, and, second, to set up an alibi with his own people.

All this is out of Dr M’s standard play-book. Singaporeans should not be deceived. Good neighbourliness ought to be a two-way street.”

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