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Talks on 1962 Water Agreement “overshadowed” by new issues surrounding ILS and JPL disputes: MFA S’pore

Following the meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad in Nov last year regarding the 1962 Water Agreement between the two nations, a subsequent meeting between the Attorneys-General of both countries was held regarding the issue the following month.

A spokesperson for Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, revealed on Tuesday (19 Feb) that the talks between Singapore’s Lucien Wong and Malaysia’s Tommy Thomas were “overshadowed” by “new issues that had arisen over the Johor Bahru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures”.

The MFA spokesperson’s comment was made in response to Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s statement regarding bilateral discussions on the Agreement.

Datuk Saifuddin was quoted as saying the same day that talks on the Agreement “have already started”.

Speaking at the Rohingya Education Centre on Tue (19 Feb), he said: “We have eight matters up for negotiations with Singapore and the water agreement is one of them.

“This (succeeding in starting the negotiations) we deem as important because before, we could not sit at a table on the issue,” he added.

Previously, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad revealed that he is seeking to hold negotiations with the Republic on the issue of the water pricing.

“We will try to include people from the Johor government, but Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah will lead the group,” he said.

New Straits Times reported Dr Mahathir as saying at the launch of the National Community Policy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday (17 Feb) that it is “unreasonable” to maintain the current price of 3 sen per 1,000 gallons today, which was determined in 1962.

Dr Mahathir predicted in a speech he had delivered in the same event that the prices of goods, including houses, will continue to rise in the years to come.

Yet, he said, “the only thing that will not increase is the price of water sold to Singapore, at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons”.

“At that rate, we cannot even get a (packet of) nasi lemak,” he quipped, inviting laughter from the audience, NST reported.

S’pore gov’t spent $1bil on infrastructure and maintenance; absorb RM 1.90 per 1000 gallons of water: Water Talks

The water agreement between the two nations, which will expire in 2061, stipulates that Malaysia is bound to supply Singapore with “250 million gallons of raw water daily at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons”, before buying back part of the treated water from Singapore “at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons”.

Seven years ago, Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts published a booklet called Water Talks as a rebuttal to Malaysia’s claims against Singapore regarding the ongoing water dispute issue.

Among the issues highlighted in the booklet were that the Singapore government had, by then, spent S$1bil on the construction of dams and treatment plants, in addition to footing the full cost of water treatment and pipeline maintenance.

The government, through the booklet, claimed that the Republic, is in fact, absorbing RM1.90 per 1,000 gallons of water in terms of cost, as water is treated at RM2.40 per thousand gallons.