Monday July 14, 2003

Malaysia launches media blitz over
water dispute with Singapore

By Malaysia Bureau Chief Zainudin Afandi

Ad that appeared on July 13, 2003
Malaysia has launched an aggressive media campaign over its water dispute with Singapore.
The advertisements in Malaysian newspapers are in response to the issues raised by Singapore in its March publication, "Water Talks? If Only it Could".
Rejecting Singapore's book, Malaysia claims the republic made a 662.5 million ringgit (US$174.3 million) profit in 2001 from the water it buys from Malaysia, while Malaysia got nothing.
The Malaysian government's media blitz on the water dispute with Singapore made the front pages of all the mainstream newspapers on Sunday.
This was followed by more articles and editorials in the inside pages, all of which deplored the publication of "Water Talks? If Only it Could," by Singapore.
In its full page advertisement, Malaysia accused Singapore of tarnishing Malaysia's good name, and said this is why it is setting the record straight.
In the ad, Malaysia said Singapore paid 2.39 million ringgit, or over US$628,000, for raw water in 2001.
But it claimed Singapore made 662.5 million ringgit, or US$174.3 million, from re-selling the water.
But Sunday's salvo is not the first, nor would it be the last.
Malaysia is taking out more advertisements over the next few days.
And Monday's advertisement is expected to have this tagline: "Developing Malaysia subsidizes affluent Singapore by more than 18 times."
Its focus is on the alleged subsidy Singapore enjoys when buying water from Malaysia.
This claim is based on what Malaysia calls the higher costs Singapore would have to pay for recycled water or NEWater, compared to the raw water it buys from Johor.
A special booklet will also be distributed to the Malaysian media.
The punchy but emotive lines used in the ads will become a daily staple for all Malaysians.
Apart from the ads, Malaysia says the special booklet will provide details of its claims.
But interestingly, the booklet will not have all the documents and diplomatic exchanges between the two sides.
The documents and the diplomatic correspondence exchanged are, however, included in the Singapore book.
When publishing it, Singapore had said it would give the public an opportunity to weigh the facts and make their own judgement on the truth behind the water negotiations.
With the current media offensive launched by Malaysia, it looks like the war of words over the water issue is not over.