KL's stunt a bid to obstruct growth of Tuas port?

Any civilised country which understands the meaning of mutual respect in international relations would have sought talks to clarify any territorial dispute with a neighbour at the onset, instead of calling for one only after it had repeatedly encroached into its neighbour's territory to try and establish a fait accompli.

As Putrajaya ought to know by now, Singapore is its most peace-loving, smaller and "younger twin", with no designs on neighbouring lands and seas.

But even a tiny city-state reserves its sovereign right to send as many assets as it wishes to nullify an alien threat within its jurisdiction, the way bigger states like Malaysia would of course (Singapore stands firm in dispute over its territorial waters, rejects KL's call to stop sending assets to the area, The Straits Times Online; Dec 7).

I sincerely hope that Putrajaya does not take for granted the restraint that Singapore has shown towards its provocation.

The Malaysian vessels have absolutely no business to be in Singapore waters. Malaysia too has understood this modus vivendi for the last few decades, until recently.

So why this sudden change in attitude?

An obvious deduction would be the concerns among certain quarters across the Causeway over the impact of Singapore's upcoming mega-port development at Tuas on similar activities along their coast off the Strait of Malacca.

By unilaterally declaring an expansion of Johor Baru Port Limits into Singapore territorial waters, the Malaysian authorities probably reckon they can obstruct its growth and development.

This is not very different from how some desperate footballers commit cynical fouls to stop the flow of superior players.

While there will always be differences and competition between close neighbours, both Malaysia and Singapore will benefit only from a rivalry which makes them better players in a race to the top, not thugs in a free fall to the bottom.

The onus is really on Putrajaya to show that it can manage these differences and competition in accordance with the goodwill of international law.

It was Malaysia who started this unprofessional and unconstructive stunt, it is Malaysia who should end it amicably by returning to the status quo ante before Oct 25, for the sake of bilateral ties and Asean solidarity.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'KL's stunt a bid to obstruct growth of Tuas port?'. Print Edition | Subscribe