In N-Day speech, Singapore leader warns of ‘sacrosanct’ water deal

Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore entered into the HSR project in good faith. (Reuters pic)

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today reached out to the Pakatan Harapan government, saying he hoped to improve bilateral ties even as the new administration was bent on reviewing several projects as well as the price of water sold to the city-state.

“The water agreement is sacrosanct. We must proceed strictly in accordance with its terms.” Lee said in his National Day Rally address delivered in three languages – Malay, Mandarin and English.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad had called for a review of a 1962 agreement for the sale of raw water to Singapore. The prime minister said the rate was outdated and should be increased by at least ten times.

Lee also reminded Malaysia of the existence of legally binding agreements on the High-Speed Rail (HSR) linking both countries, and the Rail Transit System which plans to link to Johor.

“These set out clearly the duties of each party and what happens if either party wants to change or terminate the agreements. Both sides have to carry out what has been agreed to unless we mutually agree to vary the terms,” he said.

He said Singapore agreed to the two projects “in good faith after careful negotiations because they benefited both countries”.

In his speech, Lee said he hoped to improve relations with Malaysia, saying Mahathir was someone Singapore was familiar with.

“I hope with Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his new team, we can build on our deep partnership, look ahead and make further progress together,” he said.

“We are closely bound by ties of kinship, history, geography and economics. We need to work together to tackle common challenges and when our interest diverged, we must find constructive ways to resolve our differences.

“If Singapore-Malaysia relations stay stable and close, we can pursue win-win cooperation and we can also each focus on our own domestic priorities. And we have many of them, so do the Malaysians,” he said.