Claiming Johor MB entered its waters, Singapore calls off Monday bilateral meet

Ida Lim

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian aboard the MV Pedoman. ― Picture via Facebook/Osman Sapian

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The Singapore government today announced a postponement to bilateral talks with Malaysia scheduled for January 14, attributing it to an “intrusion” by the Johor mentri besar into its waters.

According to the Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry, Malaysia has also agreed to defer the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM).

“The intrusion by Johor Mentri Besar Dato’ Osman Sapian into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas on 9 January 2019 made the 14th JMCIM meeting untenable. Singapore therefore proposed to postpone the JMCIM meeting, and Malaysia agreed,” the republic’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Malay Mail is reaching out to Malaysian government officials for confirmation and response to the Singapore government statement.

The Johor MB has denied encroaching into Singapore territorial waters during a visit near a maritime area disputed by both countries earlier this week.

Osman clarified that his visit aboard the MV Pedoman with other state officials were to see how Malaysian security forces carried out their duties, adding that he believed the area he visited was not within Singapore’s borders.

Local daily The Star reported earlier today that Singapore had responded to Osman’s visit by sending several vessels to the same area.

The Star said the Malaysian team for the 14th JMCIM meeting was to be led by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Osman and other Johor state leaders, while several ministers from Singapore were expected to attend the meeting.

Malay Mail had previously examined the matter of the contested maritime borders.

Malay Mail had also last month revealed that the Republic of Singapore Navy sent a patrol ship into Johor Baru’s new port limits several times, despite Putrajaya’s offer to de-escalate the standoff in the contested waters off Johor.

Singapore later responded last month by saying it had acted with restraint.

On January 8, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah met Singaporean counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in a bilateral meeting on several issues including the maritime border dispute.

Following the meeting, both sides agreed to establish a working group jointly headed by Wisma Putra secretary-general Datuk Seri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob and the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry Chee Wee Kiong, with the working group to report its findings to both foreign ministries in two months.