JOHOR BARU: Malaysia has the right under its agreement with Singapore to relocate the pipelines supplying water to the island for specified reasons but only after giving about six months' notice, said former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the provision for relocation was proven valid because Malaysia had relocated the Singapore pipelines on land during the construction of the new road and railway station for the Integrated Southern Gateway project.
"So, if they (Singapore) say the relocation of the pipelines constitutes an 'act of war', it is totally unreasonable," he told a news conference after making a visit to the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex, here, Saturday.
He suggested that a referendum be held to determine the views of the Johor people regarding the Government's decision to cancel the crooked bridge project.
"Let me say it frankly that I do not agree with the Government's view that the people do not want the crooked bridge," he added.
The complex was planned as part of the RM2.5 billion Integrated Southern Gateway which was to have included a bridge to replace the causeway linking Johor to Singapore.
Accompanying him on the visit were Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, CIQ contractor Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd Managing Director Datuk Yahya Jalil, its Chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail and leaders of Barisan Nasional parties in the State.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Wednesday announced that Malaysia had dropped plans to build a half-bridge to replace the Malaysian section of the causeway and would cease all negotiations on the project with Singapore.
Abdullah cited legal implications and strong public sentiments against Singapore's demands for the supply of sand for the republic's reclamation programme and allowing its jet fighters to use Malaysia's air space in exchange for its agreement to build a full bridge.
Dr Mahathir said the issue of the water pipelines had been studied carefully by the Government during his administration as he was personally involved in the implementation of the Integrated Southern Gateway project from its beginning.
"We know where we stand (on the pipelines)," he said, adding the agreement even required Singapore to be fully responsible for the cost of any relocation of the pipelines.
He said if the present administration was unsure about the provisions of the agreement, it could refer the agreement to either the Malaysian or international courts for a ruling.
"That was the case with the Sipadan and Ligitan islands (off the east coast of Sabah once claimed by both Malaysia and Indonesia), where we took it to the World Court and they ruled it belongs to us and this was accepted by Indonesia," he said.
According to him, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar recently acknowledged that the World Court might favour Malaysia on the issue of relocating the pipelines.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysians, particularly those living in Johor, only rejected the conditions set by Singapore and not the construction of the bridge.
"The people certainly do not agree with the two conditions but this does not mean they do not agree with building a crooked bridge," he said.
Asked to comment on Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo's remark that the question of who won and who lost did not arise in the decision by Malaysia to cancel the bridge project, Dr Mahathir said: "Singapore will surely think it did not win but Malaysia lost."
On how he felt after his visit to the Integrated Southern Gateway project and the cancellation of the bridge project, he said it was something that greatly saddened him. "I am hiding my sadness because if I were to cry like I did when I announced my resignation (as Prime Minister at the Umno General Assembly in 2002), I will embarrass you (reporters). So, I laugh.
"This is because I cannot believe that before I die - and I do not know how long I have left as I am already 80 years old - the sovereignty of our country can be violated so easily. We retreated as if we surrendered our land to others," he said.
Dr Mahathir said in the issue of the bridge Malaysia had lost a little of its independence because it was unable to do something like building a road and bridge in a place within its own territory. - Bernama