Water issue on hold – for now

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007

DISCUSSIONS with Singapore on the water supply agreements have been put on hold for the moment because the issue is still emotional to Malaysians, said Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek. 

However, he said the Government was studying the next best step to find a solution to the negotiations – whether to bring it up for arbitration or re-start bilateral discussions.  

Ahmad Shabery said the water issue was discussed as a package of bilateral points together with the bridge, sand supply and Immigration, Customs and Quarantine issues. 

“The issue will be put on hold, as the (scrapped) bridge, the airspace and sand issues have created tension among Malaysians.  

“It will be on hold until we feel that time has healed the hearts of Malaysians. Then we can discuss these issues that touch on the people’s emotions,” he said. 

He said this to a supplementary question by Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad (BN – Ketereh) who asked how the Government intended to deal with the water agreement discussions diplomatically while ensuring its dignity was upheld. 

Alwi’s original question was whether the Government planned to review the water supply agreements with Singapore since Johor no longer relied on the republic for treated water while Singapore had produced Newater. 

To a question by Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN – Ayer Hitam), Ahmad Shabery said Malaysia welcomed Singapore’s effort in dealing with its water needs as it eased tension among its people since the republic depended less on Malaysia. 

With these developments any future discussions on the agreements could use new terms whereby security would not be tied to the water issue. 

He said Malaysia’s relations with Singapore had historical aspects as the water agreements were signed in 1961 and 1962 when Singapore was to be part of Malaysia. 

When Singapore ceased to be part of Malaysia in 1965, the water issue became a “hydro-political” issue.  

“Water was seen as a scarce resource and was therefore linked to security. Any action that touches on the question of water supply by a country to another is deemed as a hostile action. 

“This is what are always wary of, in terms of whether we should stay true to what we have agreed on or make changes,” he said.  

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