Sunday 16 December 2018
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todayonline - 9 days ago

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen warns Malaysian government vessels to leave Singapore waters

SINGAPORE — Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the country has proposed to Singapore, through the Singaporean High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, for both countries to “cease and desist” from sending assets into the disputed area effective 0000 hrs on Saturday (Dec 8), pending discussions on outstanding maritime boundary issues. In a Facebook post, Mr Saifuddin said the action to desist would be undertaken “without prejudice to either Malaysia or Singapore’s position on maritime boundary claims over the area in question”. This comes as both countries remain locked in disputes over their territorial boundaries and air space. Singapore had earlier lodged a strong protest with Malaysia over the latter’s purported move to extend port limits, thereby violating sovereignty and international laws. It was also revealed earlier this week that ships and vessels from Malaysia have been repeatedly intruding into Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas over the past two weeks, including vessels from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Marine Department Malaysia. On Thursday, the Republic responded by extending its port limits off Tuas which Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said is “well within” Singapore’s territorial waters. Mr Saifuddin said the Malaysian government has communicated to the Government of Singapore, through the Singaporean High Commissioner to Malaysia, its “protest to the decision of the Government of Singapore issuance of Port Marine Circular No. 9 of 2018 dated 6 December 2018 by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore which purports to extend Singapore’s port limits off Tuas”. He added: “The Government of Malaysia highlighted the fact that this new and purported unilateral port limit extension by Singapore encroaches into Malaysia’s territorial waters and the established Johore Bahru port limits as indicated in the Federal Government Gazette P.U. (B) 587 ‘Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port’ published on 25 October 2018 by the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Malaysia. This is a clear violation of Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law.” Earlier on Friday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had warned Malaysian government vessels to leave Singapore territorial waters, referring to these acts of intrusion as “serious violations of Singapore’s sovereignty”. In a Facebook post, he wrote: “Singaporeans are peace-loving, but I strongly caution violators to leave Singapore territorial waters.” He added: “For 20 years or more, the Republic of Singapore Navy and Police Coast Guard ships have patrolled our Singapore territorial waters at Tuas. Out of nowhere, Malaysian government vessels now claim these waters as theirs and have been continually intruding since November.” In total, 14 intrusions have occurred so far, with three Malaysian government vessels seen in Singapore s waters on Thursday. “Our security forces have acted with restraint despite continuing intrusions and provocations,” Dr Ng said in the post, which was accompanied by a video showing naval officers from RSS Independence engaging with a Malaysian government vessel. His comments echoed what Transport Minister Khaw said the day before when he called Malaysia’s claim to Singapore’s waters a “blatant provocation and a serious violation of our sovereignty and international law”. On Friday night, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli also said that the “sudden actions” by Malaysia dampen the spirit of collaboration between both countries, stressing that Singapore will approach the issue “assertively” and “calmly”. Mr Masagos, who spoke in Malay, said: “The governments of both countries want a positive and building relationship. This is clear in the way we handled the high-speed rail issue recently. In my opinion, I think that the people of both countries want to look forward and leave the past behind.” Both Singapore and Malaysia can reap “a lot of benefits” if both countries “work together in a sincere and consistent manner,” he added.

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