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Singapore and Malaysia must act in good faith

14 Jan 2019 2 min read

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Singapore will do its best to discuss all outstanding bilateral issues with Malaysia in a calm, reasonable and focused manner, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Delivering his ministerial statement in Parliament on 14 January 2019, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore hopes to work with Malaysia for better relations, and closer cooperation that benefits both sides. Nevertheless, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised that he does not expect a quick or smooth resolution to all these issues.

On the maritime dispute, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has lodged a “strong protest” with the Malaysian government over the port limits which encroaches into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas. He added that Singapore has long exercised sovereignty and patrolled these waters without any protest from Malaysia.

Dr Balakrishnan also said the Johor’s Menteri Besar Osman Sapian’s “unauthorised visit” to a Malaysian vessel in Singapore waters has undermined the goodwill and trust necessary for further cooperation between the two countries. This has also “made it untenable” for Singapore and Malaysia to proceed with the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) for Iskandar Malaysia, which was scheduled for 14 January.

However, Dr Balakrishnan stressed that his discussions with both Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah and Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali, both before and after the visit, have been amicable and constructive.

On the topic of the airspace over southern Johor, Dr Balakrishnan said that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar airport does not stop Malaysia from developing tall buildings in Pasir Gudang or operating tall ships in Pasir Gudang Port.

“The ILS has not and will not prevent the building of tall structures as alleged by Malaysia. And we have consistently stated that if Malaysia has any new plans for developments, we are prepared to discuss and adjust the ILS procedures if necessary,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

On the price of raw water under the 1962 Water Agreement, Dr Balakrishnan revealed that the Attorneys-Generals (AG) from both Singapore and Malaysia met in December 2018 for discussion. Unfortunately, the discussion has been overshadowed by the new issues arisen over the Johor Bahru Port Limits and Seletar ILS procedures. He said the two AGs will meet again to continue their discussions.

Concluding, Dr Balakrishnan said the strength of Singapore’s diplomacy depends on domestic unity and resilience. “This is the foundation for our diplomacy as we seek good relations with all our friends and neighbours within a rules-based international order,” he said.

Image credit: Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan Facebook