Heng Swee Keat calls on KL to cease intrusions by govt vessels

A Singapore Police Coast Guard vessel (right) passes a Malaysian government vessel (left) in the waters between Singapore and Malaysia, on Dec 6, 2018.
A Singapore Police Coast Guard vessel (right) passes a Malaysian government vessel (left) in the waters between Singapore and Malaysia, on Dec 6, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged Malaysia to cease its government vessels' intrusions into Singapore territorial waters to avoid escalating tensions.

In a Facebook post last night, Mr Heng said the ships' presence is "a violation of Singapore's sovereignty and international law". He added: "This is a serious matter of national interest. We will not hesitate to take firm actions to protect Singapore's sovereignty and territory."

He noted that Malaysia is the Republic's closest neighbour, and hoped both countries will discuss issues constructively and peacefully, in compliance with international law, adding that this will benefit both their peoples.

Mr Heng's comments came a day after Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said Singapore welcomed talks on the dispute, and hoped both governments could reach a "swift and amicable resolution".

Mr Chan had called on Malaysia to return to the status quo preceding Oct 25, when Kuala Lumpur gazetted an extension of the Johor Baru port limits that encroached into Singapore's waters. "Let us calm down the ground situation first," he said. "Have the Malaysian ships leave the area peacefully, immediately."

Yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli also called the incursions "provocative and unacceptable", saying both sides must resolve the dispute in a "peaceful and diplomatic manner".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'Heng Swee Keat calls on KL to cease intrusions by govt vessels'. Print Edition | Subscribe