KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 ― Wisma Putra today did not back Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian’s visit to the Johor Baru port that sparked a diplomatic incident with Singapore, which considered it an intrusion into its waters.
Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry denied Osman’s claim of getting “unofficial blessing” from Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and the deputy minister before visiting on January 9 the disputed area, which Wisma Putra described as Malaysian waters.
“The Ministry wishes to set the record straight and state that upon learning of the planned visit from a Malaysian enforcement agency on the morning of January 9 itself, ministry officials, under the advice of the Foreign Minister, immediately and repeatedly contacted the Chief Minister’s office and conveyed a message not to proceed with the visit,” Wisma Putra said in a statement.
“The Ministry was concerned that such a visit would be counter-productive after the positive and constructive outcome of the bilateral meetings between the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Minister of Singapore just the day before. On January 8, both Ministers agreed to establish a working group that will study and discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations.
“When contacted, the Chief Minister at the time was already onboard a vessel and heading towards the Johor Bahru port.”
On January 9, Osman visited Malaysian Marine Department vessel MV Pedoman that 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 that of Johor Baru.
In response, Singapore postponed the 14th Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia originally scheduled last Monday, after accusing Osman of intruding into Singaporean waters.
Speaking in its Parliament earlier this week, Singaporean ministers Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Ng Eng Hen both blamed Osman’s visit for the deteriorating situation of the disputes between the two neighbours.