Singapore-Malaysia ties key focus of first Parliament sitting in 2019

In a joint declaration on Jan 8, 2019, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah stressed the need to keep the situation on the ground calm to allow discussions to take place.
In a joint declaration on Jan 8, 2019, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah stressed the need to keep the situation on the ground calm to allow discussions to take place.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Relations between Singapore and Malaysia will be a key focus of discussion at the first Parliament sitting of the year on Monday, when Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is scheduled to deliver a ministerial statement.

Seven MPs and two Nominated MPs have also filed questions on the ongoing disputes over airspace and maritime boundaries, according to the agenda on the sitting issued by the Clerk of Parliament yesterday.

Besides asking for updates on the situation, they want to know what Singapore's plans are.

In a joint declaration after a meeting in Singapore on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah stressed the need to keep the situation on the ground calm to allow discussions to take place.

The foreign ministers also said that their countries' transport ministers would meet soon for discussions "to ensure the safety and efficiency of civil aviation".

On maritime issues, the ministers said a working group will be set up to discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.

However, a day after the meeting, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian posted on his Facebook page about his visit to a Malaysian government vessel anchored in Singapore waters off Tuas.

 

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said on Thursday that there were five Malaysian government vessels in Singapore's waters as of 6pm on Wednesday.

It also confirmed that two vessels remained in Singapore waters as of 6pm on Thursday.

Other issues that will be raised at Monday's Parliament sitting include questions on safety lapses at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's dental clinic as well as the recent High Court decision allowing a gay man to adopt his biological son who was born via surrogacy in the United States.

MPs have also filed questions on what measures Singapore has in place or will take to prevent drones from disrupting air traffic, after drone sightings at Gatwick Airport near London caused hundreds of cancelled flights last month.

Several want to know whether the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources can do more to prevent food poisoning outbreaks, after a spate of high-profile incidents in November and December last year.

The House will also debate six Bills, while three others will be introduced.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore-Malaysia ties key focus of first Parliament sitting in 2019'. Print Edition | Subscribe