KUALA LUMPUR - The youth wing of Malaysia's ruling party gathered at the Singapore High Commission here on Monday (Nov 20) afternoon, accusing Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of belittling Malaysia's bid to review territorial claims over Pedra Branca, after PM Lee suggested on Sunday that it was politically motivated ahead of national elections due by August next year.
Earlier on Monday, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin "condemned in the strongest terms" the claim by Mr Lee, pointing out that it has been more than a year since new information was found regarding the dispute over the rocky outcrop northeast of Singapore, and Malaysia had yet to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for polls.
"(It) is an irresponsible accusation that can damage the good relations between Malaysia and Singapore. It is easy to gain political support by making accusations against other countries as done by PM Lee with his statement during the PAP convention," Mr Khairy said in a press statement issued only in Malay.
"But unlike him, Malaysia has always viewed the issue of sovereignty seriously and not just to pull support during elections or political conventions only," the MP for Rembau in Negeri Sembilan, added.
The Youth and Sports Minister was not present at the Singapore High Commission, but Umno Youth vice-chief Khairul Azwan Harun led about 20 members in an hour-long gathering to hand over a memorandum of protest to the embassy.
Mr Lee had opened his speech at the annual convention of the People's Action Party (PAP) on Sunday on foreign relations, with Malaysia and Indonesia, which he regarded positively with Singapore investing heavily in both neighbours.
But he noted that these relationships were complex, with issues cropping up from time to time such as Kuala Lumpur's bid to revise the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision to award Pedra Branca to Singapore in 2008.
"I'm not sure what Malaysia's motive is, but their general election is coming, and maybe that has something to do with it," Mr Lee, who is PAP's secretary-general, said at the annual convention.
Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali told The Malaysian Insight news site in a WhatsApp message: “I agree with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The matter has nothing to do with politics or the general election.
"The request for a review is based on new evidence found, and it is strictly based on laws.”
Senator Khairul told reporters that Asean members "must display a sense of respecting each other".