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Mahathir defends opposition to S'pore land reclamation

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Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad defended on today Malaysian protests against Singapore's land reclamation project near their maritime border.

"If Singapore says there is no basis, it has to show us how. We think there is basis (in our protests)," he was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency in Kelantan.

Mahathir said the land reclamation affected the environment, the livelihood of Malaysian fishermen and the maritime border.

A Singapore minister last week said there was no need to consult Malaysia on the reclamation project.

"The reclamation works that we do are a result of our own need for land," Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan told parliament.

He said Singapore, a small island-republic, has been reclaiming land within its territorial waters for more than 30 years to house its people and industries.

"They do not encroach on Malaysian territory. We have carried out these works within our territorial waters," he said.

Malaysia has said the reclamation project could obstruct ships headed for ports in its southern state of Johor, which are being promoted to rival Singapore's port, and officials in Kuala Lumpur have criticised Singapore for allegedly ignoring their concerns.

Mah said these concerns were unfounded as Singapore's reclamation works "are about seven kilometres away from the shipping lane" to Malaysia's port of Tanjung Pelepas.

Fresh strain

The land reclamation row has put a fresh strain on ties between the neighbours, which have been erratic since Singapore was ejected from the Malaysian Federation to become an independent state in 1965.

Water supplies from Malaysia to Singapore, a proposed bridge linking the countries and the use of Malaysian airspace by Singaporean aircraft are among other points of contention.

Mahathir said there has not been any fresh developments to resolve any of the outstanding issues.

"We made some other suggestions and we are waiting for their response. And we have not got any yet," he said.

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