Heng Swee Keat, who is widely presumed to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister since his recent appointment as the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) first assistant secretary general, has weighed in on the renewed tensions between Malaysia and Singapore due to maritime and airspace disputes.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, December 9, Singapore’s Finance Minister commented on the issue for the first time, calling the intrusion of Malaysian vessels into Singapore’s waters as, “a serious matter of national interest.”
Moreover, he stated that this intrusion is “a violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law.”
Heng did maintain a calm and measured tone in his post, emphasizing that Singapore was seeking “close cooperation” with Malaysia, since it is “our closest neighbor,” and “We have close people-to-people ties.”
He added, “I hope that Singapore and Malaysia discuss issues constructively and peacefully, in compliance with international law. This will benefit peoples of both countries.”
Here is his post in full:
“The intrusions by Malaysian government vessels into Singapore territorial waters are a violation of Singapore’s sovereignty and international law. This is a serious matter of national interest. We will not hesitate to take firm actions to protect Singapore’s sovereignty and territory. I urge Malaysia to cease these intrusions to avoid escalating tensions.
Malaysia is our closest neighbour. We have close people-to-people ties. Singapore seeks close cooperation with Malaysia.
I hope that Singapore and Malaysia discuss issues constructively and peacefully, in compliance with international law. This will benefit peoples of both countries.
I trust Singaporeans will remain calm and united at a time like this.”
PAP’s newly appointed second assistant secretary general, Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Trade and Industry, also spoke out on the issue the day before. On Saturday, December 8, Chan told reporters after an event at Buona Vista Community Club that both countries must go back to the “pre-October 25th status quo ante,” and to “have the Malaysian ships leave the area peacefully, immediately,” but that the risk that tensions would escalate “cannot be underestimated.”
Another official who has weighed in on the issue is Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister. Also in a Facebook post, he called Malaysia’s actions “provocative and unacceptable”, but said that “above all, we must maintain good relations and resolve this issue in a peaceful and diplomatic manner.”