Indonesia’s English news site The Jakarta Post has weighed in on the current maritime border dispute between close neighbours Singapore and Malaysia. In an editorial piece published on December 7, The Jakarta Post openly applauded Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for not getting involved in a “public spat” with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Singapore and Malaysia, close nations who normally enjoy a good relationship, are entangled in a maritime dispute ever since Malaysia extended the port limits of Johor Bahru. The Singapore government said that the extension “encroaches” into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas.
There have also recently been 14 instances of intrusion by vessels of Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department MalaysiaMalaysian government vessels into territory belonging to Singapore. Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Thursday, December 6, that the intrusions were “aggressive actions”.
“A border dispute between Malaysia and Singapore has resurfaced, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad himself getting involved in the public spat this week. We praise Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for not responding openly to Mahathir’s claim, as the latter is simply singing the same old song. Exaggerating the long-standing problem would be counterproductive for both sides.”
On December 5, Mahathir told a Malaysian media source that by extending the Johor Bahru port limits, Malaysia was not overstepping its rights and was not trespassing onto Singapore’s territory.
“We can measure to see if it is true or not but we had not touched their border…We are still within our own waters,” said Mahathir.
The Jakarta Post piece also said that Mahathir needs to amend his attitude and approach toward this entire issue:
“As a senior leader, Mahathir, who turned 93 in July, needs to change his confrontational and hostile approach toward Singapore and act as a mature statesman. The advice of one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, to not ‘throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass’ is apt.”
The Singapore-Malaysia relationship is a very important one, especially since the two countries are so close geographically.
Based on data collected in 2017, The Jakarta Post reported that Malaysia’s most important trading partner is Singapore, and that for Singapore, Malaysia is its third most important trading partner after China and Hong Kong.
According to The Jakarta Post, Indonesia also has its own border disputes with its neighbours, including Singapore and Malaysia.
The Jakarta Post editorial ended by quoting Mahathir’s own words from his keynote speech last month at the APEC CEO Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
“Mahathir cited the old saying: ‘Prosper thy neighbor and not beggar thy neighbor.’ Those words of wisdom should be heeded by Malaysia and Singapore for the sake of bilateral relations.”
Wise words indeed.