PKR MP defends Johor MB’s visit to the Malaysian-Singapore maritime border

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian aboard the MV Pedoman. ― Picture via Facebook/Osman Sapian
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian aboard the MV Pedoman. ― Picture via Facebook/Osman Sapian

JOHOR BARU, Jan 15 — Johor parliamentary lawmaker Hassan Abdul Karim today came out in support of Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian’ visit to the MV Pedoman vessel which allegedly led to the postponement of the annual Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM).

Hassan who is the Pasir Gudang MP also criticised the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership for staying silent after Singapore leaders described Osman’s visit as trespassing.

He said it was unfair to see Osman being “bullied” by Singapore’s leaders over the allegations.

“Singapore treats the Johor menteri besar as a scapegoat and punching bag, while our leaders in Putrajaya stay silent over the matter.

“The Johor government leaders also stood silent on the issue and let Osman defend himself in the face of wild allegations from Singapore while it was him that undertook his duty to defend the sovereignty of the region for state and nation,” said Hassan in a five-paragraph statement today.

He is the first PH leader who has openly backed Osman after his visit last week which Singapore said was an act of provocation.

Hassan said he felt sorry that the federal government from the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister, including their deputy ministers, has been silent over the visit and allowed Singapore’s ministers and its parliament to “bash” Osman over the trespassing accusation.

“As a Malaysian MP and the Johor PKR chairman, who is part of the PH government in the country and state, I have the right to raise this matter and demand the government’s answer,” said the 68-year-old former social activist, adding that he will officially raise the issue at the next parliament sitting in March.

Earlier today, Malay Mail reported that Singapore had admitted in its Parliament that the island republic’s authorities had sent Police Coast Guard (PCG) and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) vessels to respond to Osman’s visit last week, even when his entourage had comprised just Malaysian civilian vessels.

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

Osman had denied he trespassed in an act of provocation by defending his visit as to watch Malaysia’s security teams doing their job.

Singapore then postponed the 14th Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia originally scheduled yesterday, after accusing Osman of intruding into Singapore’s territorial waters.

Yesterday speaking in Parliament, Singaporean Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan blamed Osman of allegedly “undermining the goodwill and trust” for bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

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.