1. A new book on Lee Kuan Yew has appeared with the title “Lee Kuan Yew – Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going.” It is a collection of 16 interviews with Lee Kuan Yew by Singapore journalists.
2. What is the hard truth which will keep Singapore going? It is, according to Lee Kuan Yew the vulnerability of Singapore. Without saying so in so many words, Lee Kuan Yew believes that the island’s neighbours would war against it if it has no military capacity to defend itself. The United Nations would not help Singapore in the event of such an attack.
3. Even America would not defend Singapore despite the Security Framework Agreement. America went to the aid of Kuwait because of oil, but Singapore’s problem is water.
4. Kuan Yew blamed me for stopping sand supply from Malaysia. I was quoted as saying, “Even at their present size they are trouble, you let them grow some more they will be more trouble.” Rhetorically he then asked the journalist present, “We’ve got friendly neighbours? Grow up.”
5. I may have said that, though I cannot remember. But is that an indication that we intend to invade Singapore?
6. Singapore had been taking large quantities of sand from the sea-bed east of Johore and also in the Strait of Malacca. As a result the coast has been eroded in places. Taking one billion cubic meters more of sand in these seas would cause serious erosion.
7. In addition the fish-breeding ground will be destroyed and this will affect Malaysian fishermen.
8. As to the trouble caused by Singapore; in the 22 years of my premiership I was not able to resolve any of the problems with Singapore. These are the Central Provident Fund, the railway land, the operation of the Malayan Railway in Singapore and the water price. Additionally the reclamation in the Tebrau Strait was affecting the deep water shipping lane for ships to and from Pasir Gudang Port. The only problem solved was the unilateral decision of Malaysia to give up the naval base in Woodlands after Singapore kept raising the lease payments. Malaysia did not ask for even a single cent as compensation for the facilities it has installed at the base.
9. As for Singapore’s military planes flying over Malaysian air space, Malaysia had the right to disallow such flights for many reasons. Singapore would certainly not like to have Malaysian military planes flying over Singapore.
10. When we wanted to build a bridge to replace the congested causeway Singapore was not forthcoming.
11. All this while Malaysia had been supplying raw water at 3 sen per thousand gallons. Even to Melaka, Johore is paid 30 cent per thousand gallons. Negotiations to raised the price of water failed repeatedly. The first agreement will end this year. We will continue to supply raw water at 3 sen per thousand gallons until 2061 under the second agreement.
12. Yes, we buy treated water at a subsidised price of 50 cent per thousand gallons. We are willing to forego the supply and treat our water ourselves.
13. It was Malaysia which suggested that both countries submit claims to Pulau Batu Puteh to the international court. The court decided that the rock belongs to Singapore even though it is nearer Malaysia. But two other rocks further from Malaysia but nearer Singapore were awarded to Malaysia.
14. Malaysia’s willingness to go to the International Court is hardly in keeping with a country which harbours the intention to invade Singapore.
15. Kuan Yew cried when Singapore left Malaysia. We thought that it was the separation which had saddened him. But now he tells us that it was because “I left behind tens of thousands of people who had joined our rallies”. Kuan Yew might remember that despite the huge crowds attending the PAP rallies, the party won only one seat.
16. The PAP supporters immediately formed the DAP to fight the cause promoted by the PAP after the separation. The DAP is alive and well today in Malaysia. In fact it now rules Penang state.
17. But the rump UMNO left in Singapore could not survive in the hostile atmosphere created by the PAP Government. For that matter no other political party has been allowed to function properly in Singapore.
18. Kuan Yew claims all these opposition people are duds and must not be allowed to rule Singapore or even to be in the opposition. This is a frank admission that he determines who should represent the people of Singapore, not the people themselves as in a democracy. If there is any more proof needed that Singapore is a totalitarian state, this admission by Kuan Yew confirms it.
19. Now Kuan Yew is urging Muslims not to hold to the teachings of Islam too strictly. Most Muslims are in breach in their practice of Islam. But it is not for others to tell the Muslims that they should renege on their practice of Islam to facilitate integration in Singapore. In Malaysia we try to live with our differences. Our integration is not perfect because we are sensitive to the sensitivities of our people. We do not ask people to forsake their religious practices so we can integrate.
20. Malaysia has no intention to attack Singapore even if it is militarily weak. Even in my time there was no such intention. In fact we wanted to continue to supply Singapore with water, but at a fair price. I don’t think my successors harbour any intention to do harm to Singapore. These are the hard truths. Competition in trade and shipping does not mean war, or a threat of war.
21. But one thing is certain: if Singapore treats Malaysia and Indonesia as its enemies then you must expect them to prepare for their defence. Even if it may not lead to war there will be tension and there will be an arms race. And much money will be wasted.
22. It would be far better if Mr Lee, the Minister Mentor of Singapore stop thinking about being vulnerable and that its neighbours harbour the intention to invade it. As with Pulau Batu Puteh, Sipadan and Ligitan our preference is for negotiation, arbitration or an international court’s decision.
23. Remember Malaysia gave up Singapore peacefully. We did not try to use force to keep Singapore or to suppress its people.