Water issue could spark Malaysia-Singapore military conflict: report

  Agence France Presse
February 3. 2002

Malaysia-Singapore water issue boiling
MALAYSIAN ex-army general warned that if the issue of water supply between Singapore and Malaysia is not resolved properly, it may ignite a military conflict, a report said Sunday (Feb 3).

Zaini Mohamad Said, an ex-lieutenant-general said the close ties of the people of the two members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was insufficient to prevent a military conflict.

"In this context, it is crucial the issue of water is addressed with caution by the leaders and the governments of the two countries.

"A military conflict must be avoided because it will only hurt both countries," he was quoted as saying in the Mingguan Malaysia Malay-language daily.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on January 28 said that Singapore had been delaying negotiations and that "the longer talks are prolonged, the more money Malaysia will lose."

The outspoken premier also said that Malaysia had long been underpaid for water supplied to Singapore, and that Kuala Lumpur now wanted a reasonable price but that Singapore has refused.

Singapore on Saturday rejected allegations by Malaysia that the city-state has been underpaying for the water it gets from its neighbour.

Zaini said military strength was in favour of the tiny republic whose army was equipped with advanced gadgets.

"Its (Singapore's) structure and (war) doctrine is offensive in nature," he said.

Singapore, which is lacking in natural resources, obtains half of its daily water needs from Malaysia's neighbouring Johor state at three sendollars) per 1000 gallons. Its two water agreements with Malaysia expire in 2011 and 2061.

Water supply has been one of a number of issues which have created friction between the two neighbours since Singapore became independent from the Malaysian Federation in 1965.