SINGAPORE - The Republic did not want the current maritime dispute with Malaysia to happen, but Singapore will take firm action when its sovereign rights are affected, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Saturday (Dec 8).
Referring to the two countries as twins, she said Singapore wants to continue and protect this "brotherly relationship" and hopes the relationship can be put back on the right trajectory.
"We want to get past this situation right now. Nobody wants this tension to build up, but where our sovereign rights are affected, we must take the right action.
"We must take firm action, but we must also remain calm," Ms Fu said.
She made the comments after a speech at a police community roadshow in Jurong East on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had sent a diplomatic note to Malaysia's Acting High Commissioner to Singapore, reiterating the Republic's position that Malaysia must get its ships to leave Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas immediately.
Ms Fu noted that the Singapore Police Coast Guard has been busy patrolling Singapore's waters because Malaysian vessels have started plying there.
On Oct 25 this year, the Malaysian government issued a gazette notification that would extend Johor Baru port limits into Singapore's territorial waters.
Following that, there had been multiple intrusions of Malaysia government vessels into Singapore waters, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan earlier this week.
In her comments, Ms Fu emphasised the close ties between the two neighbours, saying: "We are connected in so many ways. We go to Malaysia for shopping, we go to their place for business, we visit their people all the time.
"This kind of brotherly or sisterly relationship is one that we really want to continue and to protect."
She also expressed hope that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project can be back on track.
"How nice would it be... when we can visit Kuala Lumpur and Malaysians can come down to Singapore in an hour."
"That's the kind of connectivity, business opportunities that we, people in Jurong, have been looking forward to."
"But it can't be helped, Malaysia has decided to postpone the decision and we respect that."
In September, Malaysia and Singapore signed an agreement to postpone work on the HSR for about two years, up to May 31, 2020.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had initially wanted to scrap the HSR as part of a review of mega projects to reduce the country's RM1 trillion (S$333 billion) debt.
Ms Fu, who is also MP for Yuhua, which is in Jurong, on Saturday presented appreciation plaques to 10 organisations which are part of the Safety and Security Watch Group from the Jurong Gateway cluster.
It was for their commitment to enhancing the safety and security of their workplaces.
Among them was the Singapore Science Centre, which had participated in multiple emergency preparedness exercises with the police since it joined the watch group in 2017.
Mrs Veronica Heng, the centre's director of operations, said: "Being in this group, we can better prepare ourselves and keep our visitors safe, as well as keep in touch with what is happening in the Jurong region, such as suspicious activities or other crime concerns."