The youth wing of Malaysia's ruling party gathered at the Singapore High Commission yesterday, accusing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of belittling Kuala Lumpur's bid to review territorial claims over Pedra Branca, after PM Lee suggested on Sunday that it was politically motivated ahead of Malaysia's national elections.
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin earlier yesterday "condemned in the strongest terms" the claim by PM Lee, pointing out that it has been more than a year since new information was found by Malaysia regarding the dispute over the rocky outcrop north-east of Singapore. He said Malaysia had yet to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for the 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 statement issued in Malay.
"But unlike him, Malaysia has always viewed the issue of sovereignty seriously and (it is) not just to pull support during elections or political conventions only," he added. Mr Khairy, who is also Youth and Sports Minister, was not present at the protest, but Umno Youth vice-chief Khairul Azwan Harun led about 20 members in an hour-long gathering and handed over a memorandum of protest.
PM Lee had in his speech at the People's Action Party (PAP) convention on Sunday spoke on Singapore's foreign relations, noting its ties with Malaysia and Indonesia were good, 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 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," PM Lee said.
Malaysia's Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali told The Malaysian Insight 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."