Putrajaya—Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad announced that the local government is in full support of plans to build the biggest ship-to-ship transfer hub in the world in the port of Johor Bahru, which did not go over well with the Crown Prince of Johor.
The Crown Prince had written on his Facebook page that the federal government had failed to consult local officials in Johor on the project and that they were “bulldozing” through the situation. He wrote that neither he, nor the Sultan, nor other officials were aware of the project. “Anyone who says Johor is informed of this project is a liar.”
Even more pointedly he wrote, “Whatever it is in the distance of three Nautical miles in Johor waters especially the matter of land and water is the absolute right of the state. Is Putrajaya trying to take over the power of the state?”
Dr Mahathir answered by saying, “The chief minister of Johor is aware, he asked me yesterday and I told him about it. I thought everyone knows. This is a project that will benefit Malaysia.”
Malaysian company KA Petra and Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings are developing the project together, with the Hong Kong firm having a 30 percent stake in it.
The Crown Prince of Johor also put on his Facebook page a post from Gerakan Muafakat Johor (Johor Consensus Movement), who say that the project was given preferential treatment because of its connections to “cronies” of some top federal officials.
Furthermore, according to the post, local businessmen were pushed aside to favour others.
Dr Mahathir replied to this by saying, “All Malaysians are my cronies. That’s why I work for all of them, including the people of Johor”.
The Prime Minister also denied allegations of “bulldozing,” and expressed surprise that the Crown Prince was unaware of the venture. “He is in Johor, other people in Johor know about it but he doesn’t know. He knows many things but this he doesn’t know.”
The Crown Prince wrote on his Facebook page after Dr Mahathir’s remarks, “With regards to the project in Johor waters. Tuanku Sultan Johor and myself are not aware of the project. The Menteri Besar is also not aware, based on the attached voice recording. The state government including the Land and Mines office is also unaware.”
He posted an audio clip wherein a reporter asks the Chief Minister of Johor about the endeavour, and he replied by saying he had only found out about it on social media.
This is not the first time that disagreements have arisen between The Prime Minister and Johor’s royal family.
Dr Mahathir added that Singapore was also aware of the venture since it will be built in an area close to the disputed territory between Malaysia and Singapore. While he said the latter had at first protested, “We showed them that this is in Malaysian waters, this is not Singapore and as far as I know, what we do in Malaysian waters, we are entitled to do.
There were problems we had when Singapore said that we are encroaching. We are not encroaching, we are in our waters and I think this is public knowledge, so if people don’t know, well, I don’t have to go around telling people one by one, ‘you know or not’.”
The Straits Times reports that the ship-to-ship transfer hub will not trespass Singapore’s waters. The issue of encroachment is a hot-button topic between the two nations. At the end of 2018, tensions escalated when both Singapore and Malaysia extended its port limits in the area. After a while, both governments decided to suspend the overlapping port claims.
The venture will cost between S$ 203 and S$ 243 million and will be built in the Straits of Johor near Tuas. The ship-to-ship (STS) transfer hub will be built to accommodate as many as 30 vessels at a time.
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