Mahathir recently urged the Johor government and the people of Johor to pressure Singapore when it comes to our water agreement.
According to the Malay Mail, Mahathir called our water agreement "morally wrong" and that a rich country like Singapore shouldn't exploit a poorer country in this manner:
“[Since] 1926, we sell water to Singapore at the price of three cents for 1,000 gallons — not litres, but gallons....This is the price of 1926, but even until now too, Singapore is still paying three cents 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."
Mahathir then attributed Singapore's rapid development to the fact that Malaysia supplies water to Singapore.
In response, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan brushed aside Mahathir's comments about the water agreement as a "red herring":
"These are strong, emotive words, no doubt intended to rouse public opinion. I’m supposed to be diplomatic but I think members of this House also know that I call a spade a spade.”
Vivian also said that Singapore's success came from having zero tolerance towards corruption. He also said Singapore honours its international agreements and commitments.
He clarified that the issue was not about who was richer or poorer. Rather, it is about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of agreements.
The water agreements signed in 1961 and 1962 were guaranteed by both countries in the 1965 separation agreement.
The 1961 agreement expired in August 2011 but the 1962 agreement will only expire in 2061.
Singapore has stated on numerous occasions that breaching the 1962 Water Agreement would void the sanctity of the Separation Agreement and undermines Singapore's existence as an independent and sovereign state.
Vivian reiterated that neither Singapore nor Malaysia can unilaterally change the terms of the Water Agreement and must honour all the terms stipulated in it, including the price of water.
Is the Water Agreement really unfair to Malaysians?
The 1962 Water Agreement entitles Singapore to draw and use the water from the Johor River up to a maximum of 250 million gallons of raw water per day at the cost of RM0.03 per 1000 gallons.
PUB draws water from the Johor River and treats the water at the Johor River Waterworks located near Kota Tinggi in Johor.
In return, Singapore provides Johor with treated water. The agreement called for the provision of about 5 million gallons of treated water a day to Johor.
This treated water is sold to Johor at RM0.50 per 1000 gallon.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RM0.50 is:
"only a fraction of the true cost to Singapore of treating the water, which includes building and maintaining the entire infrastructure of the water purification plants".
According to retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan, the true cost of treating raw water is RM2.40.
All these are stipulated in the 1962 agreement. In reality however, Singapore supplies 16 million gallons of treated water to Johor at their request, according to Vivian.
In 1987, Malaysia was given a chance to review the Water Agreement but they chose not to because they were benefitting from the pricing arrangement.
In reality, Johor benefits more from the current arrangement because it buys subsidised treated water from Singapore and sells it at a higher price to Johoreans, according to retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan:
Vivian ended by asking Singaporeans to decide for themselves if Singapore has been "fair" or "morally wrong" in this matter.
He added that the "answer is obvious".
Top images via Mahathir's Facebook page and Gov.sg
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