Singapore and Malaysia’s joint mega infrastructure projects such as the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail and the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System cannot be suspended indefinitely, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament on Monday (2 March) that Singapore is looking forward to continue negotiating with Malaysia on these issues “in good faith” to arrive on a “practical, durable, and mutually beneficial solution” once newly-appointed Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Cabinet is formed.
“In the spirit of constructive bilateral cooperation — at Malaysia’s request — we agreed to temporarily suspend both projects through formal agreements.
“We gave Malaysia time to review their position and propose amendments to what both sides had, in fact, agreed to contractually … At some point we need to decide whether to proceed with the projects or not,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
Touching on water issues, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has, “without prejudice to our position that Malaysia has lost the right of review”, been willing to listen to and to discuss Malaysia’s proposals “on the basis that there must be a balance of benefits on both sides”.
“We made it clear to Malaysia that any review of the price of raw water sold to Singapore will also mean a review of the price of treated water sold to Johor,” he noted.
Both sides, he said, must also discuss the yield and the quality of the water from the Johor river to ensure that Singapore can continue to draw its entitlement of 250 million gallons per day of raw water under the 1962 Water Agreement for the remaining 41 years of the agreement.
Singapore, he added, is “willing to discuss the possibility of sharing the cost of pollution control measures and new schemes to increase the yield of the Johor river”.
There will be grave repercussions should Johor fails to fulfil the stipulations, he stressed.
The sanctity of the 1962 Water Agreement would be violated if Johor does not meet its obligations, and bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia would be “severely” damaged as a result.
This is because the 1962 Water Agreement, said Dr Balakrishnan, was guaranteed by Malaysia as part of the Separation Agreement in 1965, the “sacred” document which has led to Singapore’s independence from the Malaysian Federation.
Previously in his ministerial statement in January last year, Dr Balakrishnan remarked that both Singapore and Malaysia must act in “good faith” to solve bilateral disputes “in compliance with international law and norms, and honour existing agreements”.
He mentioned that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and then-PM of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad had agreed on the Attorneys-General (AG) of both nations meeting “for discussions” on the 1962 Water Agreement “to better understand each other’s positions”.