Mahathir had other chances to revise water price

The writer points out that in 2001, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Kuala Lumpur to negotiate with Tun Dr Mahathir, but a demand of the Malaysian government made it difficult for common ground to be reached.
The writer points out that in 2001, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Kuala Lumpur to negotiate with Tun Dr Mahathir, but a demand of the Malaysian government made it difficult for common ground to be reached.PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, apart from personally choosing not to review the price of water in 1987 (Water pact: It's about respecting sanctity of agreements, says Vivian, March 2), had a further opportunity to revise the price.

In a letter to then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Tun Dr Mahathir offered to sell water to Singapore at a "fair price" of 60 sen per 1,000 gallons, in return for concessions on other elements of an overall package.

Responding to the offer in a letter dated April 23, 2001, Mr Lee said that if there was "give and take on both sides, an agreement is possible".

It was in this spirit that Mr Lee visited Kuala Lumpur in September 2001.

But while negotiations were in progress, the Malaysian government raised the asking price to RM3 per 1,000 gallons, 100 times the existing price of raw water.

This demand made it difficult for common ground to be reached, and led to a stalemate in the negotiations.

Rather than rummage through history and indulge in the politics of envy, Dr Mahathir should look into the future and see how the issue of water price can be resolved.

Until then, Singapore will stand by the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement.

Any breach of that agreement would, according to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, call into question the Separation Agreement, which is the basis for Singapore's existence as an independent sovereign state.

K. Kesavapany

High Commissioner of Singapore to Malaysia (1997-2002 )

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Mahathir had other chances to revise water price'. Print Edition | Subscribe