Parliament: Intrusion by Johor's MB is against spirit of agreement made a day earlier, says Vivian Balakrishnan

Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian made a Facebook post on Jan 9, 2019, sharing photos of him visiting Malaysian Maritime Department officials on board the MV Pedoman, which was anchored in Singapore's territorial waters. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/OSMAN SAPIAN

SINGAPORE - The intrusion by Johor's Menteri Besar (MB) into Singapore waters off Tuas on Jan 9 went against the spirit of the agreement concluded by the foreign ministers of both countries just a day earlier.

Stressing the point in Parliament on Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "This intrusion by the Johor Menteri Besar went against the spirit of the agreement between Foreign Minister Saifuddin (Abdullah) and me just one day before, on Jan 8, 2019.

"It undermined the goodwill and trust necessary for further cooperation between the two countries, especially cooperation involving Johor. It made it untenable to proceed with the JMC (Joint Ministerial Committee) meeting."

The 14th JMC for Iskandar Malaysia was to have been held on Monday (Jan 14), as part of ways both countries can cooperate to develop the giant Iskandar Development Region in Johor.

But on the eve of the meeting, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Menteri Besar Osman Sapian's presence on a Malaysian vessel in Singapore's territory last Wednesday (Jan 9) had made the meeting untenable.

On Monday, Dr Balakrishnan said the meeting was to have been chaired by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Malaysian Minister for Economic Affairs Azmin Ali, involving Singapore's and Malaysia's ministers and officials, as well as Johor officials, including Datuk Osman.

"But most regrettably, the Menteri Besar staged a publicised visit to the Malaysian Marine Department vessel anchored in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas on Jan 9, 2019," he added.

Singapore formally protested against the intrusion via a Third Person Note to Malaysia, and proposed postponing the meeting to a later date. Malaysia agreed.

Dr Balakrishnan said he had informed both Datuk Saifuddin and Datul Azmin of the postponement.

"I should add that my discussions with both ministers, both before and after the Johor Menteri Besar's actions, have been amicable and constructive, focused on trying to resolve the issues.

"Datuk Azmin met me yesterday. He also met ministers Khaw Boon Wan and Lawrence Wong today to discuss several bilateral projects which he is in charge of."

Despite the current difficulties, Dr Balakrishnan stressed that Singapore still hopes to work with Malaysia for better relations and closer cooperation that benefits both sides.

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"However, both sides must act in good faith, in compliance with international law and norms, and honour existing agreements," he said.

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