Mahathir to discuss all unresolved issues with Singapore at leaders' retreat

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the discussions would be friendly.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the discussions would be friendly.PHOTO: REUTERS

All "unresolved" matters between Malaysia and Singapore will continue to be discussed at the upcoming leaders' retreat between the two countries, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.

The annual meeting between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Tun Dr Mahathir, postponed since November last year, will take place in Malaysia's administrative capital Putrajaya on Monday and Tuesday.

"All the things that are... unresolved, including the water problem... the border line with our waters... flights over our area, who is going to control it," Dr Mahathir said at a news conference when asked what issues would be discussed at the retreat.

The two countries have recently been embroiled in a dispute over Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas, after Malaysia unilaterally extended the Johor Baru Port limits last October. Singapore responded by extending its port limits within its territorial waters.

While both sides agreed last month to de-escalate tensions by jointly suspending their overlapping port claims and reverting to their ports' former limits, two Malaysian government vessels remain anchored in waters off Tuas.

Malaysia also announced last year that it wants to reclaim the rights to manage its airspace over southern Johor, for which Singapore has been providing air traffic services, citing national and sovereign interests.

This 9th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat is the first to be hosted under the leadership of the Pakatan Harapan government, which came to power last May.

Since then, Dr Mahathir has revisited the issue of the price at which Malaysia supplies water to Singapore. He has described the price as too cheap and "ridiculous", contending that the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement need to be reviewed.

Under the agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at three sen per 1,000 gallons. Johor is entitled to buy 5mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Singapore has said this price is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water. It has, in practice, been supplying 16mgd of treated water at Johor's request.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday that the discussions would be friendly, and that Malaysia is not confrontational. "I believe Singapore understands the need to revise the price of water," he said.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had stated last month that the two countries have to honour the agreement.

 

"Malaysia and Singapore must fully honour the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, including the price of water that is stipulated in it. And our longstanding position has been that neither Malaysia nor Singapore can unilaterally change the terms of this agreement between our two countries," he said.

Dr Mahathir had called the news conference yesterday to announce that Malaysia will not accede to the Rome Statute - the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's war tribunal.

Malaysia had earlier signed the treaty but had yet to ratify it. Its abrupt turnaround came after a backlash from the country's royals and opposition politicians who argued that the treaty threatens the sovereignty of the Malay rulers.

The ICC has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Mahathir to discuss all unresolved issues with S'pore at leaders' retreat'. Print Edition | Subscribe