Singapore Parliament addresses HSR, water issue, Malaysia ties

11-Jul-2018 Intellasia | NST | 6:02 AM Print This Post

During Singapore’s Parliamentary sitting today, several questions were tabled on the Republic’s bilateral relationship with Malaysia, as well as the status of the proposed high-speed rail (HSR) project between the two countries.

Here are the latest replies and comments in Parliament:

Starting with a broad overview, Foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan said three fundamental principles of Singapore’s foreign policy are salient for the Republic’s ties with Malaysia.

“First, upholding international law and respecting the sanctity of international agreements. This is a critical principle especially for a small state like Singapore. Our very existence as a sovereign independent state is derived from the Separation Agreement of 1965,” Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament.

“Second, any disputes, if and when they arise, should be resolved in accordance with international law,” he added, citing the recent Pedra Branca cases as examples.

The third principle, the minister noted, is that Singapore must uphold its reputation as a “credible, trusted, and consistent partner, and a country that abides fully by our international obligations”.

On the HSR issue: Dr Balakrishnan said the “crux of this issue is the sanctity of international law and agreements”.

He noted there’s been a range of reports on the Malaysian government’s position on the KL-Singapore high speed rail project, adding that Singapore has sent Putrajaya a third-person note (TPN) seeking clarification of Malaysia’s position.

He added: “However, the Malaysian government has not yet replied to our TPN. Singapore is continuing to incur costs on this project as we continue to meet our obligations under the BA, while awaiting Malaysia’s clarification.

“We look forward to an official response to our TPN from the Malaysian government soon. Should Malaysia cause the HSR project to be terminated, we will deal with the question of compensation from Malaysia for costs incurred in accordance with the bilateral agreement and international law.

“The Singapore government has a duty to safeguard public funds by recovering these costs.”

On the water issue: minister Balakrishnan said the 1962 water agreement between Singapore and Malaysia is a “fundamental agreement”.

He added: “The agreement was guaranteed by both Singapore and Malaysia in the 1965 Separation Agreement, which was in turn registered with the United Nations.

“Any breach of the agreement would call into question the Separation Agreement, which is the basis for Singapore’s very existence as an independent sovereign state.”

He also reiterated a point made by previous Singaporean foreign ministers, which is that the core issue surrounding the price of water is “not how much we pay, but how any price revision is decided upon”.

“Neither Malaysia nor Singapore can unilaterally change the terms of this agreement between our two countries,” added Dr Balakrishnan.

Transport minister Khaw Boon Wan spoke next, and said the Singapore government has already spent over S$250 million, by end of May 2018, on the KL-Singapore HSR project.

He added: “This is actual money that has already been spent, our tax payers’ money. We can recover value for some of the expenditure, even if the HSR Project does not proceed.

“But a significant amount which has been spent, will be completely wasted expenditure, if the project does not proceed. The BA provides for how compensation is to be dealt with.”

Without a clarification from Malaysia on its official position on the project, Khaw said Singapore has had no choice but to continue carrying out its obligations under the bilateral agreement for the HSR project.

Singapore spent over S$6 million on the project in June and is expected to spend a similar amount in July.

“These costs will increase rapidly with time,” Khaw added. “From August to end-December 2018, we will need to spend at least S$40 million more. These include our ongoing manpower costs, operating expenses and contract costs.

“It will be most unfortunate, if Ma


sia has in fact decided to terminate, but delays in notifying us, because there will be further wasted expenditure.”

If the project is indeed cancelled, Khaw said Singapore would seek compensation from Malaysia in accordance with the bilateral agreement and international law.

He wrapped up his speech by saying: “We continue to incur costs on the HSR project as we conscientiously fulfil our obligations under the HSR bilateral agreement.

“These costs will add to the compensation which Malaysia would have to pay, should it cause the project to be terminated. It is therefore in Malaysia’s own interest to clarify its position early.”


Category: Singapore

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