SINGAPORE: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim acknowledged the long-standing water supply issue between Johor and Singapore, emphasizing the significance of upholding commitments and finding a collaborative resolution to bolster Johor’s water capacity.
He proposed the potential involvement of Singapore in managing the Johor River.
“We have to honour the commitment and the supply of water from Johor to Singapore.”
“We will have to work jointly to ensure that Johor would be able to enhance the capacity through Johor River to supply both for Johor needs, which is also expanding, and to Singapore.”
“We should also look at the possibility of Singapore participating in a joint effort in terms of studies, which can be conducted immediately; and in the management of the Johor River particularly with the state of Johor,” he stated during a joint press conference with Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Monday (30 Oct).
Datuk Seri Anwar’s visit to Singapore on Sunday for the retreat was a significant occasion, representing the first leader retreat meeting between him and PM Lee since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite their previous interactions during various official visits.
In a joint statement, both leaders agreed to reconvene the Singapore Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and Malaysia’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change (MSE-NRECC) Joint Technical Committee to resume discussions on measures ensuring the sustainable supply and water quality of the Johor River, as per the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement.
Additionally, both countries decided to resume discussions on the pricing of raw and treated water, while maintaining their respective stances on the right to review prices under the agreement, emphasizing the need for ongoing collaboration between their water authorities.
Anwar Ibrahim urges swift maritime boundary discussions
Anwar Ibrahim emphasized Malaysia’s commitment to supplying energy, leading to increased investments and the establishment of data centres in the country.
He also noted Sarawak’s proposal to export energy to Indonesia and Singapore, which has been mutually agreed upon.
On the matter of maritime boundary delimitation, Anwar emphasized Malaysia’s stance on immediate discussions, particularly with the involvement of attorneys-general from both sides, aiming for a mutually beneficial resolution, highlighting the strong bond between the two countries.
“Because I think (for) Malaysia and Singapore, it is a showcase of how two great friends can try and resolve in a win-win situation,” said Mr Anwar, added that this needed to be done although both sides have discussed it over the past 12 months.
In response to media queries regarding the progress of resolving bilateral issues, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed the desire for expediency, considering the national context and overall bilateral cooperation.
“It is not easy because first, you have to build trust with each other, and between Dato’ Seri and me, we have known each other now for about 30 years, almost 30 years and so that is not something which happens just any time.”
“It just happens that we have this opportunity. I think we also have the determination on both sides to want to work together and to tackle these problems now, and have the confidence that politically, this is something which we can explain to our populations, to the rakyat, that these are some things which will benefit the population on both sides and it is good to do, win-win.”
According to a joint statement following the retreat, the leaders anticipated the inaugural meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee (MSJTC) and the Committee for Boundary Delimitation (CBD) to address outstanding maritime boundary issues, in line with the Agreement between the Foreign Ministers of both nations on March 14, 2019.
The statement further noted the positive progress made during the first meeting of the Technical Working Group on the Agreement between Malaysia and Singapore for the precise delimitation of territorial waters boundaries, as per the Straits Settlements and Johore Territorial Waters Agreement 1927 (1995 Agreement), held in June 2023.
They anticipated the second meeting of the Technical Working Group to finalize the exact location of international boundary points as per the 1995 Agreement.
Measures to ease congestion at Singapore-Malaysia land checkpoints
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also announced significant strides in alleviating congestion at Singapore and Malaysia’s land checkpoints, particularly emphasizing the efforts to expand the Causeway’s capacity during the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat at the Istana.
During the meeting, PM Lee elucidated to PM Anwar Ibrahim the necessity of redeveloping Woodlands Checkpoint, a project that involves land reclamation. He expressed gratitude for Datuk Seri Anwar’s support for the project.
Mr Anwar assured that Malaysia would facilitate the sale of the required land, aiming to ensure smoother travel for both Malaysian workers and Singaporeans entering Johor.
“We can facilitate the sale, so that Singapore can have the facility to then make sure that the flow is made more easily, both for Malaysian workers to Singapore, and Singaporeans coming particularly during the weekends into Johor,” he said.
PM Lee highlighted the collaboration between the two nations to optimize the Causeway’s capacity, stressing the importance of efficient clearance processes on both sides.
He mentioned the initiatives by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to enhance cross-border travel and the long-term plan to expand Woodlands Checkpoint to accommodate the anticipated surge in traffic volume.
Notably, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Singapore Land Authority projected a nearly 40% increase in traffic volume at Woodlands by 2050, prompting the announcement of the redevelopment and extension of Woodlands Checkpoint in May 2022.
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