Mahathir says Singapore refuses to build new bridge although Malaysia ‘willing to sacrifice’ for it to ‘buy cheap water’

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) pictured here with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mahathir said on Oct 31, 2019, that Malaysia wants to build a bridge to link Singapore with Johor, but that Singapore did not agree to it.
The Straits Times

Malaysia’s Prime Minister is bewildered.

On Thursday (Oct 31), PM Mahathir Mohamad officially announced the going ahead of a cross-border system with Singapore called RTS Link, but he made clear that he did not see the RM3.16 billion (S$1 billion) as a complete solution to the congestion problem.

Instead, he believes a new bridge would give Malaysians travelling to Singapore on motorcycles greater ease of access, since bikes are not allowed on the RTS.

“The RTS will only solve part of the congestion issue because many motorists from Johor, in particular motorcyclists, cannot bring their motorcycles into the RTS and they would find it hard to travel to work,” The Star quoted him as saying.

“We want to build a bridge but Singapore does not want to agree,” he added.

Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama said in its report that the PM had expressed “bewilderment” over Singapore’s rejection of the idea of a bridge, which he said would solve the causeway congestion issue especially during weekends and holiday seasons such as Hari Raya.

According to Bernama, the 94-year-old premier also said: “In the year 3000, I will not be around. By that time, there will be 100 million people in Johor wanting to go to Singapore…still there will be no new bridge..so I don’t see how we can be so accommodating to Singapore without Singapore not accommodating us.”

“We may improve efficiency but as long as there is no bridge, we will not be able to solve the problems at the Johor Causeway,” he said.

It its report, Bernama stated that around 70,000 motorcycles pass through the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex – which is linked to Singapore’s Woodlands via the Causeway – every day.

“You just see, we are willing to sacrifice money to support Singapore so that they can buy cheap water for themselves but when we want to build a bridge to solve traffic problem, they refuse to have the bridge…I don’t know why,” he was quoted as saying.

Read also: PM Mahathir says Johor govt, people must speak up on the Singapore water agreement

According to The Star, Mahathir also said the state of Johor was being more generous with Singapore than it was with Melaka. “We are subsidising the people and the government of Singapore but Johor sells Melaka water at 50 sen. It is treating the other state in Malaysia with less generosity compared with Singapore,” he reportedly said.

Mahathir also expressed interest to continue negotiations in its long-time dispute with Singapore over water price, saying: “One day of delay in discussing this matter means we lose millions, in fact it can even reach a billion ringgit.”

Read also: In 3 years, Johor won’t need Singapore’s treated water, Malaysian minister says

Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore is entitled to draw 250 mgd of raw water from Johor at three sen per 1,000 gallons, while Johor is entitled to buy 5 mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

However, Singapore has been supplying Johor with a much larger volume of treated water – 16 mgd – at the same price, which Singapore has said is heavily subsidised, and just a fraction of the cost of the water treatment.

In April, The Straits Times quoted Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong as saying at a joint press conference held with Mahathir that he understood the Malaysian leader’s perspective, but that he hoped Mahathir would also be able to see why the agreement was “such a sacrosanct item” to Singapore.

Read also: 4 key things that came out of the meeting between Singapore’s PM Lee and Malaysia’s PM Mahathir

In a joint statement released after their meeting, the prime ministers said: “Both sides will seek amicable solutions, including the possibility of dispute resolution through arbitration on a mutually agreed basis.”

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