Mahathir right to revisit bilateral issues, says Anwar

PETALING JAYA: Anwar Ibrahim has defended Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to revisit bilateral issues with neighbouring Singapore, including the high-speed rail project and the water agreement, but says the two nations must “move beyond them”.

In an interview with senior fellow Yang Razali Kassim, from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, the PKR president-elect said some the deals with the republic during former prime minister Najib Razak’s administration were questionable.

He said Singapore’s political views were also deemed excessive.

“It is quite right for Mahathir to raise those issues,” Anwar said.

He, however, feels the two countries must move on.

”What is important is to continue to engage to try to resolve and move beyond these two issues. Bottom line is we have to work together,” he was quoted as saying.

Anwar, who is poised to become Malaysia’s eighth prime minister, said the two nations needed each other and would like to see more exchanges with Singapore at various levels when he succeeds Mahathir.

“Everything should be done to cement this relationship,” Anwar was quoted as saying, expecting bilateral ties to improve in the years ahead.

Both countries had recently agreed to postpone work on the 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project till May 2020.

Since taking over Putrajaya after the May 9 polls, Malaysia is reviewing mega projects to cut its massive debts.

Last month, Mahathir said he was seeking to raise the price of water sold to Singapore by more than 10 times, saying the decades-old treaty governing the water agreement needed to be revised to reflect the increase in the cost of living.

Malaysia currently sells water to the republic at three sen per thousand gallons and buys treated water at 50 sen per thousand gallons.

Anwar, meanwhile, also touched on the different working styles of the two countries, saying Malaysia was “not so business-like” as they also considered cultural aspects which he felt Singapore lacks.

“I mean, you work among neighbours, the relationship should transcend that a bit,” he was quoted as saying.