Report: Bilateral Iskandar meet uncertain after Johor MB sails too close to Singapore

Debra Chong
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian has denied crossing the maritime line into Singapore territory, national news agency Bernama reported today. — Picture by Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, Jan 12 — The annual Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) meeting scheduled for Monday may be called off, The Star reported today.

Citing unnamed sources, the daily said Malaysia’s participation is uncertain and the meeting could be postponed due to Singapore’s dissatisfaction over Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian’s visit aboard a government ship said to be too close to disputed waters between the two countries.

Singapore daily TODAY ran a report headlined “Maritime dispute: 5 Malaysian vessels in Singapore’s waters a day after bilateral meeting” on January 10.

Osman has denied crossing the maritime line into Singapore territory, national news agency Bernama reported today.

The Johor mentri besar clarified that his visit aboard the MV Pedoman with other state officials were to see how Malaysian security forces carried out their duties.

“We, when visiting MV Pedoman, are well aware of the maritime border areas of the two countries...we were sure that we did not enter their (Singapore) area because we respect the laws of both sides.

“So, I think the area I visited was not the Singapore area because our own police could go in, the purpose of the visit was not to provoke but just to observe our security team at work,” he was quoted saying.

However, Singapore reacted to Osman’s maritime visit by increasing its vessels to the area off the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, The Star reported.

According to the newspaper, the Malaysian team for the JMCIM scheduled to be held on January 14 was to be led by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and include Osman and other Johor state leaders.

On January 8, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah met Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan in a bilateral meeting that broached, among others, the maritime border dispute.

In it, 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.

The working group will report its findings to both foreign ministries in two months.

Last month, Malay Mail 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.

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