Take stiff action against individuals who threaten bilateral ties

Republic of Singapore Navy littoral mission vessel RSS Justice (at right) and the Malaysian Marine Department vessel MV Pedoman (foreground), which was anchored within Singapore port limits.
Republic of Singapore Navy littoral mission vessel RSS Justice (at right) and the Malaysian Marine Department vessel MV Pedoman (foreground), which was anchored within Singapore port limits. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Singapore responded to the intrusion into its territorial waters by Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian by issuing a protest note as well as pushing back the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (S'pore welcomes KL's move to ease tensions; Jan 14).

If the Menteri Besar continues to maintain that what he did was right, then Singapore should take the further step of declaring him persona non grata and bar him from entering Singapore even in his official capacity.

This step is similar to the sanction applied by the United States against foreign leaders or citizens who have acted against the interests of the US.

Declaring Datuk Osman persona non grata is important as he had even defied the Malaysian government's order to stay out of the disputed area (KL denies giving nod for Johor MB to visit vessel in S'pore waters; Jan 19). This makes his act seem personal and not official.

Singapore does not have to resort to using force to make its point clear; our soft power arsenal is powerful too.

This case shows that an individual can act in defiance of the authorities to complicate bilateral relations.

By taking a targeted approach against such individuals, Singapore will also be making good on its warning that such acts are not cost-free.

Tan Yip Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2019, with the headline 'Take stiff action against individuals who threaten bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe