Mahathir: S'pore is more powerful than M'sia, will not go to war with S'pore

A curious change in tone?

Jonathan Lim | October 04, 2018, 05:49 PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was in London on Monday, Oct. 1 to deliver a talk at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

His talk, "The Future of Democracy in Asia", discussed his experience during Malaysia's recent watershed General Elections, as well as the democratic processes in Malaysia.

He also touched on the future of democracy across the Asia region.

No war with Singapore

According to Bernama, Malaysia's state-run news agency, Mahathir said that although negotiations with Singapore on claims over "outstanding issues" (Mahathir used the word "various" instead of "outstanding", as written by Bernama) were not as successful, Malaysia had no intention to go to war.

Mahathir said that Singapore "may be small", but it was more powerful than Malaysia. He said that he did not see war as "a means to settle conflicts".

He said that he'd rather sit down to negotiate, even though there may be no result, than go to war.

On Pedra Branca

When asked for his views on dealing with neighbouring countries that refuse to deal with disputes through the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Mahathir said that both parties must first agree that they would "abide by the decision made by the World Court (ICJ)".

He shared Malaysia's dispute with Indonesia over two islands where negotiation and arbitration failed. He said that ICJ "very wisely said it belonged to us, Malaysia".

Then he turned to the dispute Singapore and Malaysia over Pedra Branca.

He compared Pedra Branca's size to that of a coffee table and qualified that it was nearer to Malaysia than Singapore.

He concluded by saying that "the World Court unwisely decided it (Pedra Branca) belonged to Singapore".

He said that when one goes to ICJ, they are at the "mercy of the judge".

Outstanding Various issues

Since taking power as Prime Minister for the second time, Mahathir has rehashed old issues with Singapore that were supposedly settled.

Most recently it was the Water Agreement, where Mahathir wanted to re-visit the price of water sold to Singapore.

Malaysia had its chance to adjust prices in 1991, but chose not to.


On the issue of Pedra Branca, it was awarded to Singapore by ICJ, but Malaysia said it wanted to challenge the 2008 ruling. It eventually gave up on that too.

If you'd like to hear the entire talk by Mahathir you can hear it here:

Top image from Chatham House


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