KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore showed “lack of good faith” when it made public documents and letters on the water deal between the republic and Malaysia, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.
“I don’t know if releasing the letters is a good practice. I don’t know what they are trying to prove,” he told reporters yesterday after launching the Non-Aligned Movement’s Business Forum on South-South Co-operation, which will be held here on Feb 23 and 24 in conjunction with the NAM summit.
Syed Hamid was asked to comment on the Singapore Government’s decision to release documents, including the 1927, 1961 and 1962 water agreements, and letters over two years between leaders of both countries on the issue.
A total of 19 letters were made public, with Straits Times publishing three on Sunday and five yesterday.
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar had said on Sunday that he was releasing the documents because the issue was “no longer realistic and so much information on the water issue has been put out by Malaysia that needs to be rebutted by conclusive evidence.”
Asked if releasing the letters was unbecoming and showed that Singapore was arrogant, Syed Hamid said:
“I don’t like any conflict with anyone but it is not our practice to publish letters which are subject to negotiations.
When asked whether Malaysia would release similar documents for publication by the local media, Syed Hamid said the country regarded them as “official secrets,” which are embargoed for 25 years.
On Singapore’s statement that Malaysia had changed its mind several times on the water price, Syed Hamid said: “The price has never changed.”
He explained that when the agreement was signed between the two sides in 1927, Malaysia agreed to buy treated water from Singapore at 25 sen per thousand gallons and agreed to increase the price to 50 sen in the 1961 and 1962 agreements, showing that Malaysia had acted with high moral standards.
“However, our water price to Singapore has not changed from 3 sen in 1927 till now,” he said.
He added that when Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew proposed that the price of water supplied to Singapore be increased to 30 sen per thousand gallons, Malaysia disagreed and Singapore suggested 45 sen.
“We said, in that case, why don’t we negotiate at 60 sen? But they disagreed. Suddenly, while negotiating, Singapore said they would like to stress that Malaysia had no right to review the water price, but we are giving concessions. So you have to get the whole story,” he said.
He said now that Singapore was talking about using provisions in the agreement to refer to the Johor law for arbitration, Malaysia would “act accordingly” because the document stated that arbitration had to be agreed to by either or all parties.
On talk of war between Singapore and Malaysia, Syed Hamid said it was irresponsible for anyone to talk about war.
“Malaysia has never talked about war but about defending our rights and sovereignty. That (war) is not our stand. When we have conflicts we say we will sit and negotiate and if we can’t, we refer to a third party.’’
On the business communities of NAM countries, Syed Hamid said they could play a supporting role to the governments’ action to prevent war on Iraq.
He said the business communities could show that they did not want to have war because it would impede economic growth.