In its Parliament, Singaporean minister accuses Johor MB of ‘undermining goodwill’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan delivering a Ministerial Statement in Parliament January 14, 2019. — TODAY pic
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan delivering a Ministerial Statement in Parliament January 14, 2019. — TODAY pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Singaporean Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has today accused Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian of allegedly “undermining the goodwill and trust” for bilateral cooperations between the two countries.

Speaking to the city-state’s Parliament, Dr Vivian also reportedly pointed out that he is not expecting any quick or smooth resolution to bilateral issues with Malaysia, including the current air and maritime borders dispute.

“This intrusion by the Johor Mentri Besar went against the spirit of the agreement between Foreign Minister Saifuddin and me just one day before, on January 8, 2019,” he was reported saying by the republic’s Straits Times, referring to Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

“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 was scheduled today, but then postponed by Singapore’s Foreign Ministry after accusing Osman of allegedly intruding into Singapore’s territorial waters.

Osman had visited MV Pedoman which was anchored within Johor Baru’s new port limits, but Singapore is disputing the limits claimed and has since expanded its own port limits to overlap Johor Baru’s.

This comes even as Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali is currently visiting the republic for two days to discuss bilateral issue.

Dr Vivian was earlier reported saying the ties with neighbouring Malaysia have been in a “downward spiral” over the disputes, but hoped the issues could be resolved amicably.

“Both of these sets of sudden actions upset the status quo that has been in place for many years,” he was quote saying in a separate report.

He had also emphasised the importance of its comprehensive defence strategy called Total Defence, and Singapore’s investment in its Armed Forces, claiming “the strength of Singapore’s diplomacy depends on domestic unity and resilience, and the fact that we cannot be intimidated or bought”.

“As a small state with limited resources, the quest for security and resilience has been a constant, relentless imperative for us since independence. It is not something that we look at only in times of unease,” he reportedly said.

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