Saturday, 2 March 2019

Mahathir says Singapore's success due to Malaysia supplying it water

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says Johor govt, people must speak up on the Singapore water agreement
He calls pact 'morally wrong', and says state and people should not wait for federal govt to renegotiate water price
The Straits Times, 1 Mar 2019

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday urged the government and people of Johor to speak up against what he felt was a "morally wrong" water agreement with Singapore.

The "rich" country of Singapore has been benefiting from "poor" Malaysia on the water issue, he told the Johor government's retreat with the federal Cabinet in Putrajaya.

"Singapore rapidly developed because we have been supplying them with water, but I find the Johoreans rarely talk about it," Tun Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.

"They just wait for negotiations to be undertaken by the federal government as if the state government is unaffected... The state government must make their voices heard. The rich are depending on the poor? This is not only illogical but also morally wrong. We must put stress on this issue," he added.

He was quoted by the Malay Mail online news as saying: "Not just the federal government, not just our negotiators, but the people of Johor must also pressure, saying that Singapore is exploiting Johor's water."

He added, as quoted by the news site: "Singapore depends on Johor for electricity, water and all that. If we manage these well, we will get enough profit.

"However, now, since 1926, we sell water to Singapore at the price of three sen for 1,000 gallons - not litres, but gallons.

"This is the price of 1926, but even now, Singapore is still paying three sen for 1,000 gallons of raw water from Johor. We have to fight this, but it seems we are not that smart in defending or highlighting the mistreatment that is happening to us."

The water issue with Malaysia resurfaced in June last year, a month after the Pakatan Harapan government took office, when Dr Mahathir said the price of raw water sold to Singapore was "ridiculous" and that Malaysia would approach Singapore to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.

Under the 1962 Water Agreement between the two countries which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

Johor is entitled to buy five mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons. Singapore has said this price is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water.

Singapore's stance is that in 1987, Malaysia lost its right to review the price under the 1962 Water Agreement when it chose not to do so.



Speaking about the water issue and referring to Singapore, Dr Mahathir was quoted by the New Straits Times newspaper as saying: "How can such a rich nation with higher per capita income of US$18,000 (S$24,300), compared with us, with per capita income of US$10,000, pay such an unreasonable rate?"

Dr Mahathir claimed that Singapore is also making profits with the high pricing of its desalinated water, yet still pays Malaysia only three sen for the raw water, Malay Mail quoted him as saying.

The Prime Minister said Johor should play up its strategically located ports and lower costs to entice Singaporeans to invest and shop there.




















Parliament: Mahathir's comments on water agreement a 'red herring', says Vivian Balakrishnan
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2019

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has called Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's pointed comments over the 1962 Water Agreement a "red herring".

Referring to Tun Dr Mahathir's remarks on Thursday urging Johor's government and people to protest against what he called a "morally wrong" pact, Dr Balakrishnan said the words used were "strong, emotive" and intended to rouse public opinion.

Dr Mahathir, in urging Johor to protest the agreement, had questioned how "a rich nation" could pay "such an unreasonable rate" for raw water sold by Malaysia.

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament that Singapore's position on the water pact has been "clear and consistent". Neither Malaysia nor Singapore can unilaterally change the terms of the agreement between their countries.

He said Dr Mahathir himself had explained in 2002 that Malaysia chose not to review the price in 1987, when he was PM, because it benefited from the deal - under which Johor paid for treated water at a fraction of the treatment cost.



Dr Balakrishnan added: "I am supposed to be diplomatic. But I think members of this House also know that I call a spade a spade."




















 










Johor plans to stop relying on Singapore for treated water: Menteri Besar Osman Sapian
Menteri Besar says state's plans to be self-sufficient cannot be divulged for now
The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2019

JOHOR BARU • The Johor state government plans to be self-sufficient in treated water instead of relying on Singapore, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian said yesterday, according to Malaysian media.

"We have a plan to be self-sufficient but that is still in the planning stage and cannot be divulged at the moment," Datuk Osman said after attending a meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Cabinet ministers in Putrajaya.

Mr Osman's comments came a day after Tun Dr Mahathir urged Johoreans to speak up on the "morally wrong" water deal between Malaysia and Singapore.



Under the 1962 Water Agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

Johor is entitled to buy five mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons. Singapore has said this price is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water. Singapore has, in practice, been supplying 16mgd of treated water at Johor's request.

But Dr Mahathir said during the two-day meeting with Johor officials that "rich" Singapore had been benefiting from "poor" Malaysia on the water issue.

"I don't hear Johoreans talking about this," Dr Mahathir said. "They don't feel pressured and they are waiting for the federal government's negotiations on the matter."



Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday the bilateral water agreement is not about who is richer or poorer, but about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of agreements.

The words Dr Mahathir used were "strong, emotive words, no doubt, intended to rouse public opinion", said Dr Balakrishnan in Parliament.



Meanwhile, Mr Osman also said yesterday that the meeting had achieved its objective of increasing cooperation between the state and federal governments.

"Many ideas and views were presented during the sessions," he was quoted by The Star as saying.






























Parliament: Malaysia-Singapore water pact is about respecting sanctity of agreements, says Vivian Balakrishnan
Singapore has so far spent more than $1 billion on water projects in Johor, says minister
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2019

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday described the latest comments by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the water issue as 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," he told the House.

In calling for Johor to speak up against the 1962 Water Agreement, Tun Dr Mahathir had asked how Singapore, as "a rich nation", could pay "such an unreasonable rate" for raw water sold by Malaysia under the water pact, when Malaysia was a poorer country by gross domestic product per capita.

This was "morally wrong", Dr Mahathir had said at the Johor government's retreat with the federal Cabinet in Putrajaya two days ago.

The remarks prompted Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) to raise the issue at the debate on the Foreign Affairs Ministry's budget.



Responding, Dr Balakrishnan said Dr Mahathir had used "strong, emotive words, no doubt intended to rouse public opinion".

In his rebuttal, he reiterated that the water pact was guaranteed by Singapore and Malaysia in the 1965 Separation Agreement.

Any breach of it would call into question the Separation Agreement, which is the basis for Singapore's existence as an independent sovereign state, he said.

"Therefore, Malaysia and Singapore must fully honour the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, including the price of water that is stipulated in it. And our longstanding position has been that neither Malaysia nor Singapore can unilaterally change the terms of this agreement between our two countries," he added.

He stated again that Malaysia had lost its right to review the price of water. In fact, Malaysia has previously acknowledged that it chose not to seek a review in 1987 because it benefited from the pricing arrangement under it.



Dr Mahathir, who was Malaysia's prime minister from 1981 to 2003, explained in 2002 that his country did not ask for a review in 1987 as it knew that any revision would also affect the price of treated water sold by Singapore to Malaysia.

Today, Singapore continues to sell treated water to Malaysia in excess of its obligation of five million gallons a day (mgd) under the water agreement, at Malaysia's request.

Singapore has been selling 16mgd of treated water to Johor, Dr Balakrishnan added. It does so at a fraction of the cost of treating that water, he said. "In other words, for every gallon, we are subsidising.''

On top of this, PUB also receives additional requests to supply additional treated water to Johor from time to time. For example, between Jan 2 and 4 this year, Singapore supplied a further 6 mgd of treated water over and above the 16 mgd, when Johor needed more water because its water plants experienced disruption owing to pollution.

Dr Balakrishnan also highlighted how PUB and Johor signed an agreement in 1990 to build the Linggiu Dam, to increase the yield of the Johor River.

Johor owns the dam, but Singapore paid more than $300 million for its construction and operational costs, as well as compensation for the land used for the Linggiu Reservoir, among other things.

"If Malaysia had exercised the right to review the price of water in 1987, Singapore might well have made different investment decisions on developing the Johor River," he said.

He added that Singapore has so far spent more than $1 billion on water projects in Johor to help ensure not only PUB's waterworks but also that Johor's own waterworks can reliably draw water from the Johor River.



Dr Balakrishnan said that in periods of dry weather - which Johor is coincidentally experiencing now - Singapore continues to provide Johor with treated water at its request.

"We do so out of goodwill, without prejudice to our legal rights under the water agreement.''

He added: "We are permanent neighbours and we want to be good neighbours and we have never shied away from dealing with difficult bilateral issues."

This is why, he said, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong proposed to Dr Mahathir last November that their attorneys-general meet to better understand each other's positions on whether Malaysia still had the right to review the price of water under the current pact.

The attorneys-general met last December, he added. "Unfortunately, their discussions were overshadowed by the Johor Baru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System procedures issues that we are now trying to resolve."

Still, they will continue their discussions in due time, he said.

Summing up, he said that after Separation in 1965, Singapore chose a "different and unique fundamental philosophy of governance" and had taken a different development path. "Singapore has no natural resources, we are even short of water, but Singaporeans have long internalised that no one owes us a living. We have provided a framework where all our citizens strive to do their best, and achieve our potential by dint of our efforts."



He said Singapore takes a zero tolerance policy towards corruption, and the Government plans and invests for the long term, as exemplified by the 2019 Budget.

"We honour and fulfil our international agreements and commitments. As a result of that, businesses have the confidence to invest and grow in Singapore and... we invest in infrastructure ahead of time."

Dr Balakrishnan said: "I will let members of the House and fellow Singaporeans decide for yourselves whether we have been 'fair' or, to quote Dr Mahathir, whether we have been 'morally wrong'.

"I think the answer is obvious."


































Longstanding water agreement
The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2019

• Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from Johor at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

• Singapore sells treated water to Johor at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, a price that is a fraction of the true cost of treating the water.

• Johor is entitled to buy up to 5 mgd of treated water under the 1962 Water Agreement. Singapore has, in practice, been supplying 16mgd of treated water at Johor's request.

• The agreement provides for a price review after 25 years. Malaysia, however, did not exercise the right in 1987.



• Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, during his earlier premiership from 1981 to 2003, explained in 2002 that Malaysia did not ask for the review as it knew that any revision would also affect the price of treated water sold by Singapore to Malaysia.

• In 1990, PUB and Johor signed an agreement to construct the Linggiu Dam to increase the yield of the Johor River.

• Johor owns the Linggiu Dam, but Singapore paid more than $300 million for construction, land and operational costs, among others.

• The terms of the 1962 Water Agreement were reaffirmed between the two countries in January last year, at the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat.









































* Singapore's remarks on water agreement 'reckless': Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin
KL may seek international arbitration on water agreement, says minister
By Lee Seok Hwai, Assistant Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 13 Mar 2019

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has criticised recent comments by his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan over the 1962 Water Agreement as "reckless" and said Malaysia will seek international arbitration if Singapore refuses to negotiate.

Speaking in the Malaysian Parliament yesterday, Datuk Saifuddin disagreed with Singapore's position that Malaysia lost the right to review the 1962 Water Agreement after it chose not to do so in 1987.

"He (Dr Balakrishnan) accused Malaysia of not respecting the 1962 agreement by saying we can no longer review it after 25 years," he said. "Clause 14 of the agreement says that the (agreement) shall be subject to review after the expiry of 25 years from the date it is signed, and not at 25 years.

"So I don't understand what English is used by the Singaporean Foreign Minister to interpret it in such a manner."



He was replying to a question by opposition MP and former natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar on the terms of reference for bilateral talks on the water agreement.

"If they (Singapore) no longer want to negotiate, then we will bring it to international arbitration, and when we reach such a level, I hope the lawmakers here will give us the support to do so," Mr Saifuddin said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong proposed to his Malaysian counterpart, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in November last year that the attorneys-general of both sides meet to better understand each other's positions on whether Malaysia still had the right to review the price of water under the current pact.

Mr Saifuddin yesterday said that before Malaysia takes the matter to international arbitration, it needs to ensure the country, especially Johor, has ample water supply.

"We need to work on zero dependency on water from Singapore," he said.

The latest exchange of words between the neighbours started when Dr Mahathir said late last month that"rich" Singapore has been benefiting from "poor" Malaysia and urged Johor to speak up against the 1962 Water Agreement.

On March 1, Dr Balakrishnan, speaking during a debate on the Foreign Ministry's budget in Parliament, said the water pact is not about who is richer or poorer.

"It is about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of agreements," he said, adding that Dr Mahathir's words were a "red herring" intended to rouse public opinion.

He also noted that Dr Mahathir acknowledged in 2002, during his first stint as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, that he did not seek the review in 1987 as any revision would also have affected the price of treated water sold by Singapore to Malaysia.



Under the 1962 Water Agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from Johor at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

Johor is entitled to buy up to five mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, a price that Singapore says is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water.

Singapore has also, in practice, been supplying 16 mgd of treated water at Johor's request.

Asked if there were subsidies given to Singapore in the sale and purchase of water, Mr Saifuddin claimed Malaysia has given at least RM2.4 billion in subsidies to the Republic since the 1960s - which he said, without giving details on the calculations, translates to about RM100,000 (S$33,200) a day, or RM42 million a year, in subsidies.

He also accused Dr Balakrishnan of insinuating that the current Malaysian government was facing governance problems. "That is a malicious accusation, it is hitting below the belt," said Mr Saifuddin.















** Singapore 'clear, consistent' in position that Malaysia has lost right to review water price under 1962 agreement: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 14 Mar 2019

Singapore has been clear and consistent in its position that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement, a spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has said.

No review of the price of water has taken place, the spokesman said yesterday in response to comments by Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah a day earlier.

Singapore has always been prepared to settle disputes via appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedures, on mutually agreed terms, MFA added.

Datuk Saifuddin, who spoke in the Malaysian Parliament on Tuesday, had disagreed with Singapore's position that Malaysia lost the right to review the water price after it chose not to do so in 1987.

Malaysia will seek international arbitration if Singapore refuses to negotiate the price of water, he added.

Among other things, Mr Saifuddin said Malaysia and Singapore agreed to discuss reviewing the agreement when Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad visited the Republic last November. He also claimed both countries were in the "second phase of discussion, looking at the price modality, the period and other related matters".



The Singapore MFA spokesman noted that when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Tun Dr Mahathir met in Singapore on Nov 12 last year, both sides had expressed their differing views on the right to review the price of water under the 1962 agreement. They had expressed their willingness for officials to have further discussions to better understand each other's positions on this right, the spokesman added.

The attorneys-general from both countries subsequently met once last December to discuss the issue. "However, their discussions did not make progress as they were overshadowed by the issues that had arisen over the Johor Baru port limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System procedures," said the MFA spokesman, referring to ongoing disputes between Singapore and Malaysia over maritime boundaries and airspace.

Singapore's MFA made clear yesterday that "there was certainly no agreement between the attorneys-general on any matter related to the 1962 Water Agreement during their meeting".

The attorneys-general will meet again to continue their discussions, the spokesman added.

Under the 1962 Water Agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons (mgd) a day of raw water from Johor at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

Johor is entitled to buy up to five mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, a price that is only a fraction of the true cost to Singapore of treating the water.



The MFA spokesman also noted what Mr Saifuddin said on Tuesday on international arbitration, and earlier comments by Tun Dr Mahathir on March 3 that Singapore does not want to go to the "world court" over the price of water as it would lose.

The MFA spokesman said: "Singapore has always been prepared to settle disputes by recourse to appropriate international third-party dispute settlement procedures, on terms mutually agreed to by the parties.

"In fact, as far back as 2003, then Minister for Foreign Affairs S. Jayakumar said that Singapore was prepared to agree to refer this matter to international arbitration by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the interest of resolving the dispute," the spokesman added.





***  Attorneys-general of Singapore, KL to continue talks on water pact
Both sides have agreement to discuss, better appreciate each other's positions, says Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 15 Mar 2019

Discussions concerning the water agreement between Singapore and Malaysia will continue, both neighbours said yesterday, amid a longstanding difference of views over whether the deal inked in 1962 can be reviewed.

The attorneys-general of both countries will resume a discussion that began last December which was overshadowed by disputes over port limits and airspace that surfaced at the same time.

The matter was discussed by their foreign ministers, who met in Putrajaya yesterday to announce measures to help resolve the port limits issue.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said at a joint news conference alongside his counterpart after the meeting: "Both of us have agreed that the attorneys-general of Malaysia and Singapore will continue their discussions to better understand each other's position on the right to review the price of water under this agreement."



Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah added that both attorneys-general will continue to discuss the agreement "with a view to finding an amicable way forward".

Datuk Saifuddin added: "We also reaffirm our commitment to resolve bilateral issues in a constructive manner, and encourage ongoing diplomatic efforts to find amicable solutions for mutual interests."

Water has resurfaced as a bilateral issue since Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad returned to power last May.

Tun Dr Mahathir has revived efforts to review the 1962 deal, claiming that it is unfair, and calling the three sen per 1,000 gallons that Malaysia gets for the 250 million gallons per day (mgd) of raw water Singapore is entitled to draw from Johor a "manifestly ridiculous" price.

Last month, he urged Johor to speak up against the pact, questioning how Singapore, as "a rich nation", could pay "such an unreasonable rate" for raw water.

However, Johor is also entitled to buy 5 mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons, which the Republic says is heavily subsidised and a fraction of the true cost of treating the water. In practice, Singapore has been supplying 16 mgd of treated water at Johor's request at this price.

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament this month that Dr Mahathir had used "strong, emotive words", but the issue was about respecting the sanctity of agreements, and that Malaysia had said it chose not to seek a review in 1987 because it benefited from the pricing arrangement under the agreement.

Responding on Tuesday, Mr Saifuddin told the Malaysian Parliament that Singapore has been subsidised to the tune of RM2.4 billion (S$796 million) based on this price set in the deal.

And while Malaysia insists that a review can take place any time after 25 years since the agreement began, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the Republic has been clear and consistent in its position that Malaysia had lost the right to review the water price when it opted not to do so in 1987.



Speaking to Singapore media after the joint news conference yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan stressed that "there is no agreement at this point in time" on a review of the existing deal.

"There is only agreement to sit down, to explain, discuss and to appreciate each other's respective positions," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan said both sides have made very clear that they have differing views on the right of review. "In the case of Singapore, our consistent and long-held position is that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water," he said.



But Malaysia had a different view, he added, noting that both prime ministers suggested their attorneys-general sit down "and let both sides get a better appreciation of each other's interpretation of the right of review".

Their first meeting in December "did not make any progress and... no agreements were reached", he said. "Some time in the near future, the two attorneys-general will get together, and again, give them an opportunity to discuss so that there is a better appreciation for our respective positions," he added.














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