NDR 2018: 1962 water agreement with Malaysia is 'sacrosanct', says PM Lee

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) delivering his 15th National Day Rally speech on 19 August, 2018, and Malaysian prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (PHOTOS: Screenshot/YouTube and Getty Images file photo)

Singapore views the 1962 water agreement with Malaysia as “sacrosanct”, and both countries must proceed “strictly in accordance” with its terms, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (19 August).

Speaking at the annual National Day Rally, which was held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Central, Lee said that Singapore’s stance on the issue was recently reiterated by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament. Balakrishnan told the House in July that neither country can unilaterally change the terms of the agreement.

Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad recently said that he wants to increase the price of water sold to Singapore by 10 times. The Republic currently pays 3 sen per thousand gallons to Malaysia.

Lee noted that Mahathir, who was previously Prime Minister from 1981-2003, has also said that he wants to renegotiate the terms of two projects with Singapore: the High Speed Rail (HSR) and the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link to Johor.

“Malaysia has a new generation of leaders, a combination of young talents and experienced hands,” said Lee, who met his Malaysian counterpart in Putrajaya in May. He acknowledged that the 93-year-old and his team are ” determined” to review and change many of the policies of the previous regime.

However, the fundamentals of the relationship with Singapore’s northern neighbours have not changed, given the close ties of kinship, history, geography and economy.

“I told Dr Mahathir that I wanted to work with him to take our bilateral relationship forward. He agreed that we should, because we are each other’s closest neighbours,” said Lee.

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