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MFA: S’pore totally okay with M’sia bringing water price issue for 3rd party arbitration

Malaysia has lost right to review water prices, MFA said.

Sulaiman Daud | March 13, 06:15 pm

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on March 13 following the latest comments by Malaysia’s Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, accusing Singapore of hitting below the belt.

On March 12, Saifuddin slammed Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s criticism of Malaysia’s attempt to renegotiate the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement.

Singapore’s position

Vivian and Singapore have been consistent in maintaining that breaching the Agreement would also void the Separation Agreement, and would undermine Singapore’s independence and sovereignty.

Neither Singapore nor Malaysia can unilaterally change the terms of the Agreement and must honour its terms, including the price of raw and treated water bought and sold.

Back in July 2018, Vivian also made the point that Malaysia could have revised the water price in 1987, but chose not to, as any revision of the price of raw water would affect the price of treated water sold to Johor.

Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water

In today’s statement, an MFA spokesperson reiterated that Malaysia had lost its right to review the price of the water under the 1962 Water Agreement (referred to as 62WA), and that Singapore had been “clear and consistent” on this point.

“No review of the price of water has taken place. During the meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on 12 November 2018, both sides expressed their differing views on the right to review the price of water under the 62WA.

They expressed their willingness for officials to have further discussions to better understand each other’s positions on the right to review the price of water under the 62WA.”

No discussions on Water Agreement have taken place

Saifuddin had claimed in Parliament that discussions were underway to review the price of water.

“Singapore’s prime minister had agreed to discuss the matter, as such the attorneys-general of both countries met for the first discussion.

My officers and I followed up so we are already on the second phase of discussion, looking at the price modality, the period and other related matters.”

Failure in progress for water price talks

MFA said that the Attorneys-General of both Singapore and Malaysia had indeed met in December 2018 to discuss the issue.

But the discussions failed to make progress as they were overshadowed by the other disputes started by Malaysia, including the unilateral extension of Johor Bahru port limits into Singaporean territorial waters and the issue of the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) used in Seletar Airport.

MFA said:

“There was certainly no agreement between the Attorneys-General on any matter related to the 62WA during their meeting. The Attorneys-General will meet again to continue their discussions.”

Singapore is prepared to settle the dispute by international arbitration

MFA noted that both Saifuddin and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had claimed that Malaysia should bring this matter for international arbitration in the “World Court”, and that Singapore was scared of this because we would “lose”.

In response, MFA had this to say:

“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.”

Mic dropped.

This is the MFA statement in full:

“Singapore has been clear and consistent that our position is that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement (62WA).

No review of the price of water has taken place. During the meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on 12 November 2018, both sides expressed their differing views on the right to review the price of water under the 62WA. They expressed their willingness for officials to have further discussions to better understand each other’s positions on the right to review the price of water under the 62WA. The Attorneys-General of Singapore and Malaysia met once in December 2018 for this purpose. However, their discussions did not make progress as they were overshadowed by the issues that had arisen over the Johor Bahru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures. There was certainly no agreement between the Attorneys-General on any matter related to the 62WA during their meeting. The Attorneys-General will meet again to continue their discussions.

Singapore notes Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s comments in the Malaysian Parliament on 12 March 2019 that “if they (Singapore) do not want to negotiate, we (Malaysia) should bring this to international arbitration”. Prime Minister Mahathir had also said earlier on 3 March 2019 that Singapore does not want to go to the “world court”, ostensibly because we would lose.

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.”

Related stories:

M’sia foreign minister accuses S’pore foreign minister of ‘hitting below the belt’

S’pore’s success due to M’sia supplying it water? Vivian Balakrishnan has choice words for Mahathir.

Mahathir: S’pore is rich, must pay more for water from poor countries

S’pore will lose on water issue if it goes to ‘World Court’: Mahathir

Top image from MFA’s Facebook page and Saifuddin Abdullah’s Twitter.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve, although he is falling in love with Jodie Whittaker's Thirteen. He also writes about film and pop-culture, which you are very welcome to read here.

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