JOHOR BARU - Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has thanked the Singapore Government for helping the Malaysian state during drought seasons.
Calling Singapore "a neighbour and a friend", Tunku Ismail said in a tweet on his official JohorSouthernTigers account on Thursday (June 28): "Thank you to the Singaporean Government for helping Johor during the drought seasons & when we had our water crisis. We have always helped each other. May the close ties & friendship forged hundreds of years ago last forever."
His tweet came as the Malaysian government said it planned to renegotiate the 1962 water supply deal with Singapore.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has in recent interviews criticised the deal as "too costly", and said that Malaysia will approach Singapore to renegotiate the terms of the deal.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the 1962 treaty was guaranteed by both governments in the Separation Agreement, which was registered with the United Nations when Singapore broke away from Malaysia in 1965 and that both sides must comply fully with all the provisions of these agreements.
In 2016, Singapore's national water agency Public Utilities Board (PUB) supplied additional potable water to Johor after water levels in the southern state's dam hit all-time low levels due to the dry weather.
Under the 1962 Water Agreement, PUB is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons of water from the Johor River daily. In return, Johor is entitled to a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent - or five million gallons - of the raw water it supplies to Singapore.
Over the years, PUB has - at Johor's request - supplied about 16 million gallons of potable water per day to Johor. During the drought season in 2016, PUB increased Singapore's supply of treated water to Johor to 22 million gallons daily.
Besides the water deal, the new Malaysian government has also said it would review the multi-billion dollar Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail project. Dr Mahathir has said Malaysia needs to scrap big budget projects so that it can reduce its US$250 billion national debt.
In an interview with The Straits Times on Thursday (June 28), Malaysia's Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said he is confident that the two sides can resolve these bilateral issues.
He said that relations between Malaysia and Singapore go through periodic problems, but the two neighbours are adept at resolving them.
"Singapore is our most important neighbour. There will always be problems, it is normal, even married couples have problems, but they can be resolved," Mr Mohamad said. "So far, there is no problem that cannot be resolved between Malaysia and Singapore. We are good neighbours."
Many netizens welcomed Tunku Ismail's comments, which were also posted on his official Facebook page.
Facebook user Vicknesh Rajamohan said: "Class Act Your Highness. A true inspiration of how a leader should conduct themself. Wisdom is not in age but in actions, and you have shown your wisdom."
Cindy Soh commented: "Johor and Singapore true brotherhood... We will always be good brothers, help and care for each other forever."
Nasrulhadi Noh posted: "Many forget that during the July 2016 drought, Singapore supplied an additional 6 mil gallons of water a day to Johor. That's what neighbours are for."
Others asked how come Johor, which supplies water to Singapore, could not collect and treat enough water for its own citizens. They mentioned intermittent water rationing in their towns such as in Muar.
Wrote netizen Mohd Nizam: "Johor sells water to SG.... SG citizens never had problems with water (supply). But the country where the water comes from has water problems everywhere."
Yet others opined that the Crown Prince's praising of Singapore was actually an indirect attack at PM Mahathir, for saying recently that he wants to renegotiate the water agreement with Singapore.
Wrote Azhar Bin Latif: "TMJ (Crown Prince)'s statement has a deeper meaning that will redden the ears of Tun (Mahathir)."