Johor to stop relying on Singapore for treated water; Minister Vivian Balakrishnan responds in Parliament

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan responded to Malaysian PM Mahathir's comments on "Morally Wrong" Water Agreement.

Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian
Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian YouTube/ The Star Online

The Chief Minister of Johor, Osman Sapian said on Friday, March 1 that the state government is planning to be self-sufficient in terms of treated water instead of relying on Singapore.

As per the Malaysian media reports, CM Osman stated that "We have a plan to be self-sufficient but that is still in the planning stage and I cannot share the details at the moment until the plan is ready to be implemented."

The statement was made after CM Osman attended a special session with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Cabinet minister in Putrajaya on Friday.

On Thursday, February 28, PM Mahathir asked the Johor government and its people to speak up on "morally wrong" water deal with Singapore, a "rich" nation.

PM Mahathir said "The state government must make their voices heard. The rich are depending on the poor?" adding that "This is not only illogical but also morally wrong. We must put stress on this issue."

It should be noted that as per 1962 Water Agreement, which will expire in 2061, Singapore is allowed to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of water from the Johor River at three sen per 1,000 gallons and sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per thousand gallons.

Johor is also entitled to a daily supply of the treated water of up to two percent (five mgd) of the water supplied to Singapore. However, the PUB said that Singapore has been supplying 16 mgd of treated water at Johor's request.

In this case, PM Mahathir added, "I don't hear Johoreans talking about this. They don't feel pressured and they are waiting for the federal government's negotiations on the matter."

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan
Minister Vivian Balakrishnan YouTube/ govsingapore

Later, the Foreign Affairs Minister or Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan said during the Parliamentary session on Friday that PM Mahathir's "strong, emotive words" on the agreement were intended to arouse public opinion. He told the house that the '1962 Water Agreement' is not about who is poor and rich but it is about the fundamental principle of respecting the sanctity of the agreements.

Balakrishnan pointed out the facts about the agreement and said that none of the countries can unilaterally change the terms of the agreement.

He clearly mentioned that "In 1965, when Singapore was ejected from the Federation of Malaysia, we took the precaution of ensuring that the 1962 Water Agreement was guaranteed by the governments of both Malaysia and Singapore. It forms in effect part of our 1965 Separation Agreement.

"Any breach of the 1962 Water Agreement would call into question the Separation Agreement, and this Separation Agreement is the basis of our existence of an independent sovereign state. Therefore, Malaysia and Singapore must fully honour the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, including the price of water stipulated in it."

Meanwhile, CM Osman also told the local media that "many ideas and views were presented during the sessions," the meeting had achieved its objectives of increasing co-operation between the state and federal governments.