Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, proved to be a gracious host to Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali on Sunday, January 13, even as Singapore had sent a protest note to Malaysia over an unauthorized visit from Johor chief minister Menteri Besar Dato’ Osman Sapian to a Malaysian vessel in Singapore’s waters on January 11.
Singapore has decided to postpone the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM), which had been scheduled for January 14, Monday.
Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali is here on a two-day visit and is also expected to meet with Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
Dr. Balakrishnan posted about the meeting on his Facebook account, including a photo of the two ministers taking a walk by the Singapore river. His post underlines that despite the tensions between the two countries, Singapore and Malaysia have “far more opportunities… to work together, especially at this time of global economic transformation.”
Here is his post in full:
Had a good meeting of minds over dinner with Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali this evening. Took a stroll along the Singapore River too.
We had an open and candid discussion of the issues currently confronting us.
We reaffirmed that there are far more opportunities for Malaysia and Singapore to work together, especially at this time of global economic transformation.
In response to questions from the press on January 13, Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying,
“Singapore sent a diplomatic note to Malaysia on 11 January 2019 to protest the unauthorized visit by Johor Menteri Besar Dato’ Osman Sapian on 9 January 2019 to Marine Department Malaysia vessel Pedoman, which was anchored illegally in Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas.
Such a provocative act went against the spirit of the agreement reached a day earlier by Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, to resolve bilateral issues in a calm and constructive manner. The intrusion by the Johor Menteri Besar created an atmosphere unconducive to hold the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM), originally scheduled on 14 January 2019, leading to Singapore’s decision to postpone the JMCIM meeting, which Malaysia had agreed to.
Nevertheless, Singapore welcomes Malaysia’s Minister of Economic Affairs Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali’s initiative to make a bilateral visit and his upcoming meetings with our Ministers on 13-14 January 2019.”
An initiative established in 2007, the JMCIM’s purpose is to determine how Singapore and Malaysia can collaborate in Iskandar, the South Johor economic zone.
The Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry also issued a statement concerning the postponement of the JMCIM’s meeting on January 13, ending it with the reassurance that Malaysia remains committed to “strengthen bilateral relations with Singapore based on equality and mutual respect.”