Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian has been a man in the spotlight for the past week. Osman’s visit on January 9 to the Pedoman, one of the Malaysian vessels thought to be encroaching on Singapore’s territorial waters has been perceived to add to the already heated tensions between the two countries.
Moreover, his visit occurred one day after a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, wherein both parties entered an agreement to form a bilateral working group to study the maritime dispute for the purpose of further discussions and negotiations on the issue.
Osman’s unsanctioned visit to the Pedoman led to the postponement of a bilateral meeting scheduled for last Monday, January 14, of joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar Malaysia.
But the Chief Minister of Johor spoke up on Thursday, January 17, to defend his actions, saying that his visit was supported by grassroots leaders.
The Malay Mail reports Osman as saying, “In fact, I received a few messages and a video via Whatsapp from several Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia division leaders and ketua kampungs (village chiefs) that gave their support to me.
Maybe in the next few days, there will be more people that will give their support to me on the issue.”
Furthermore, Osman added that Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his deputy gave him an “unofficial blessing” before his planned visit to the Pedoman.
“They did not stop me at all from visiting the area.”
He said, as chairman of the state’s security council, it was necessary for him to have an in-depth comprehension of the maritime dispute.
Other Malaysian leaders have publicly lauded Osman’s actions as patriotic. According to Johor Information, Entrepreneurship Development, Cooperatives and Creative Economy Committee chairman Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali, “What the Johor Mentri Besar (chief minister) did was for the love of the state, country and also its sovereignty.”