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JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What the Singapore-Malaysia Water Dispute is about - JC History Essay Notes

What the Singapore-Malaysia Water Dispute is about

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: historical animosities & political differences

Dr Mahathir’s take on the water pricing issue that affected Singapore-Malaysia relations.

Historical Context: The ‘Water Agreements’
Singapore and Malaysia signed a total of four agreements to manage the water supply from the Causeway. It began with that first agreement that was signed on 5 December 1927, which allowed Singapore to rent land in Johor and import raw water from Gunong Pulai. Singapore paid an annual rent of 30 sen per acre. In return, Johor could obtain 800,000 gallons of treated water daily at a rate of 25 sen per 1,000 gallons.

The second agreement [known as the Tebrau and Scudai Rivers Water Agreement] was signed on 2 October 1961 in replacement of the previous agreement. Singapore was granted the rights to draw water from Gunong Pulai, Sungei Tebrau and Sungei Scudai for 50 years until 2011. Also, the self-governing state had to pay an annual rent of RM5 per acre and 3 sen for every 1,000 gallons of raw water it drew. In return, Singapore sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

The third agreement [known as the Johor River Water Agreement] was signed on 29 September 1962. This agreement was valid for 99 years until 2061. Based on this agreement, Singapore was entitled to draw 250 million gallons of water per day. Both parties agreed to maintain the water price, which is 3 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water.

After a six-year long process of tedious negotiations, the prime ministers of the two neighbouring countries, Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 28 June 1988. It led to the signing of the fourth agreement.

The fourth agreement was signed on 24 November 1990. It was meant to supplement the 1962 Agreement. Singapore was allowed to build a dam across Sungei Linggiu for the extraction of water from the Johor River. Singapore then borne the building and maintenance costs of the dam. In return, Singapore buy treated water from Johor via the newly-built dam.

Start of the Dispute: Post-Asian Financial Crisis
As the economies of Southeast Asia were increasingly affected by the currency crisis in 1997-1998, Singapore offered to provide a financial assistance package to Malaysia as a crisis response measure. Singapore proposed that in return for the package, Malaysia can continue to provide its water supply to Singapore even after the expiry of the water agreements.

However, the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir rejected the package. Instead, both parties discussed further to develop a more comprehensive package. In addition to the water supply issue after 2061, the package also considered other bilateral matters such as the Points of Agreement.

Considerations: Revisions in the price of raw water
On 4 March 2002, the pricing of raw water was to be revised to 60 sen per 1,000 gallons for the next five years (2002-2007). In the subsequent five years (2007-2011), it would then be revised to RM3 per 1,000 gallons. This was based on a letter that Dr Mahathir wrote to Mr Lee in February:

Johore is agreeable to revisions in the price of raw water that it now supplies to Singapore and the treated water that it buys from Singapore…

Johore believes that a fair price would be 60 cents per mgd of raw water. The price should be reviewed every five years.

Letter from Dr Mahathir to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 21 February 2001.

Furthermore, Malaysia proposed that the new water agreement would only be valid for 100 years from 2002. This meant that the new agreement would expire four decades after the end of the 1962 Agreement.

On 11 April 2002, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong replied Dr Mahathir and announced that Singapore will be self-reliant in the production of water as much as possible while keeping the current Water Agreements intact.

I do not want our bilateral relations to be always strained by the issue of water…Singapore will produce as much water by ourselves as we can, to supplement the existing Water Agreements.

Letter from Mr Goh Chok Tong to Dr Mahathir, 11 April 2002.

Achieving self-sufficiency: NEWater
Given the ever-growing demand for water, the Singapore Government concluded that it cannot solely depend on Malaysia’s water supply. In 1998, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) initiated a study to find out if NEWater was a viable alternative to the existing source of raw water. In 2003, the PUB launched the NEWater to public.Through the use of an advanced process (microfiltration and reverse osmosis), the PUB could treat reclaimed water effectively for human consumption and industrial use.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that economic issues were the main obstacle to Singapore-Malaysia relations after independence [to be discussed in class].

Join our JC History Tuition and apply your content knowledge to source-based case study questions. We conduct thematic review and question practice sessions to improve your writing skills for H2 and H1 History. Besides, we hold other relevant JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics Tuition, JC Chemistry Tuition, JC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English Tuition, Secondary Math tuition, Secondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What the Malaysian Railway Land dispute is about - JC History Essay Notes

What the Malaysian Railway Land dispute is about

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: historical animosities & political differences

The last train departed from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, marking the end of its 79-years operation.

Historical Context: The Malayan Railway
Under the Railway Act of 1918, the British acquired 217 hectares of Singapore territory to develop the Malayan Railway for a period of 999 years. It was initially known as the Federated Malay States Railways (FSMR), which later became Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). The acquired land was to be used to establish the railway stations situated in Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Timah and Woodlands.

Points of Agreement
On 27 November 1990, a bilateral arrangement was made between Singapore and Malaysia to shift away from the Railway Act of 1918 and repeal the KTM Act of 1984. The Points of Agreement (POA) was signed by then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and then Finance Minister of Malaysia Tun Daim Zainuddin. The POA was made to undergo a joint development of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station as well as the lands adjacent to the KTM-owned railway track.

Additionally, the Tanjong Pagar railway station would be relocated either to Bukit Timah or directly to Kranji. The plan was to allow Singapore to reclaim Tanjong Pagar for future development. In exchange, Singapore offered a plot of land of equivalent value in the Marina South to the Malaysian company.

Origins of the Dispute: A deadlock
However, in 1993, disagreements emerged as Malaysia was unwilling to relinquish ownership of the Tanjong Pagar land. Instead, proposals were made to re-develop the existing KTM railway into a “Trans-Asian electric railway” that extended from Singapore to Kunming, China. Also, reluctance was expressed due to fears over the perceived loss of KTM’s land in Singapore.

In September 1993, both countries agreed to relocate their Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (WTCP) in Singapore by 1 August 1998. Yet, in June 1997, the Malaysian authorities “changed its mind” and chose to keep its CIQ at the Tanjong Pagar railway station. As such, both parties sent officials to discuss new arrangements in two occasions in July 1998 for the arrangements pertaining to the Malaysian CIQ.

The Woodlands Train Checkpoint
As a result of the meetings, both sides agreed to re-locate the CIQ to Woodlands Train Checkpoint on 1 August 1998. The Ministry of Home Affairs (Singapore) published a press release on 24 July 1998 to announce the changes.

Singapore will allow Malaysian customs officials to operate at Tanjong Pagar railway station. Singapore officials will be present at Tanjong Pagar railway station to lend their authority to Malaysian customs officials during the interim period.

Singapore has agreed to Malaysia’s request to allow Malaysian Immigration to put some desks for its immigration officers on the passenger platform at WTCP to clear passengers after Singapore has cleared them for exit from Singapore.

Press Release by Ministry of Home Affairs (Singapore), 24 July 1998.

Improvement of Bilateral Relations: The 2001 meeting
In September 2001, leaders of both Malaysia and Singapore held a closed-door meeting to resolve the railway land dispute. Prime Minister Lee reiterated to his Malaysian counterpart, Dr Mahathir, that the POA was a “legally binding agreement” and stated that Singapore offered a plot of land at Shenton Way in exchange for joint development. In this letter, the water dispute was also being mentioned.

3. On the POA, I would like to confirm that what I said was that “the POA is being varied to give the extra 12 plots of land at Bukit Timah and the CIQ, too”…The 1990 POA is a legally binding agreement…

4. According to Clause 7 of the POA, the MRA land at Keppel where the rail station is currently sited will be exchanged for a plot in Marina South of equivalent value for joint development by M-S Pte Ltd. It is in accordance with an option given in Plan 2 of the POA, as stated in my letter of 24 August 2000 to Tun Daim, that I had offered a plot at Shenton Way for this exchange, for joint development.

Letter by Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir, 10 December 2001.

Recent developments: 2010 arrangements
Although there was an impasse of nearly 2 decades, a landmark land swap deal was finally made between the two countries in 2010. Three plots of former railway land – Keppel, Kranji and Woodlands – as well as three plots in Bukit Timah would be exchanged for four parcels of land in Marina South and two parcels of land in Ophir-Rochor.

A new company, known as M+S, was set up for the joint development of Marina South and Ophir-Rochor parcels. However, there were disputes over the Bukit Timah plots as they were not stated in the POA. Both parties referred to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

The Singapore Government shall vest four land parcels in Marina South and two land parcels in Ophir-Rochor in M-S Pte Ltd, in lieu of the three parcels of POA land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands and three pieces of land in Bukit Timah.

The Marina South and Ophir-Rochor land parcels shall be vested in M-S Pte Ltd for joint development when Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) vacates the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (TPRS). The KTMB station will be relocated from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (“WTCP”) by 1 July 2011 whereby Malaysia would co-locate its railway Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (“CIQ”) facilities at WTCP.

Joint statement for meeting between PM Lee and PM Najib, implementations on the POA, 20 September 2010.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that historical animosities were the main reason for the changing Singapore-Malaysia relations after independence [to be discussed in class]?

Other useful references:
Why Singapore rejected a common currency with Malaysia?

Join our JC History Tuition and learn to organise your study for this topic on Regional Conflicts and Co-operation, as part of your source-based case study revision. We conduct class discussions to broaden your understanding of these issues and apply them to practice questions for knowledge review. Also, you can consider other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics Tuition, JC Chemistry Tuition, JC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English Tuition, Secondary Math tuition, Secondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.