Malaysian vessels continue to intrude Singapore waters, Ministerial Committee talks postponed

Photo: You Tube screengrab

Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian’s incursion into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas on Jan 9, 2019 has made the 14th JMCIM meeting unsustainable thereby pushing Singapore to postpone the JMCIM meeting of which Malaysia agreed.

The meeting in question is the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) scheduled for Jan 14.

In recent months, Malaysian government vessels have been making frequent incursions into Singapore territorial waters after Malaysia extended the Johor Bahru port limits in October, encroaching into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.

Singapore has protested the port limit extension and the movements of the vessels. Singapore’s Transport Ministry also extended Singapore’s port limits off Tuas in response to Malaysia’s move.

In a statement from Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, there has been as many as 14 intrusions by Malaysian vessels in the two weeks before Dec 6.

Some alleviation of the tension was seen when both countries’ foreign ministers met. In that meeting, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah stated that the countries had agreed to establish a working group to study and discuss legal and operational matters relating to the maritime dispute in order to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.

Since the meeting between the two foreign ministers has just taken place and both countries have issued a positive joint statement, Malaysia Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali did not want to interfere with the process by having the JMCIM meeting at present. According to him, it is a good idea to defer the meeting as of now.

When inquired upon whether the intrusion had negatively affected the relationship between the two countries, Mohamed Azmin said it had not.

“The foreign ministries of both countries have taken an open approach to ensure that all issues pertaining to the maritime border are resolved in good faith,” he said in a statement to the media.