Asean can achieve more as a united team

Malaysia's unilateral decision to expand the Johor Baru port limits into Singapore's territorial waters has merely reinforced the fact that while the two near and dear neighbours may be twins with a shared heritage, they are at most fraternal ones who have embarked on very different developmental paths (S'pore rebuts Mahathir's claim over JB port limits; Dec 6).

Malaysian Transport MinisterAnthony Loke asserted that "it is trite law that land reclamation does not extend a state's basepoints and/or baselines".

Can he share what inspired his country's provocative intrusions in recent weeks?

To what extent are the massive land reclamation works taking place off western Johor a contributing factor to the alteration of the port limits, as these have clearly impeded shipping access to Tanjung Pelapas?

It seems rather odd that Mr Loke should be urging Singapore not to confuse the global maritime community with its efforts to protect its sovereignty according to international law when it is Malaysia that has unilaterally upset the apple cart with this latest bout of provocations.

Competition between countries is an existential fact of life.

The least that Malaysia can do is to adhere to a rules-based order that it strongly advocates, along with Singapore, and ensure a conducive environment for bilateral ties to flourish.

There is a lot that both Malaysia and Singapore can accomplish together along with our close neighbour Indonesia, in taking the Singapore-Johor-Riau growth triangle to new heights across many realms, including in the maritime, aviation and other transport and logistics-related industries.

Johor, Singapore and the Riau Islands will be stronger as one sub-regional team of Asean by leveraging and complementing one another's strengths to better compete with other similar set-ups in north Asia and elsewhere.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'Asean can achieve more as a united team'. Print Edition | Subscribe