KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Malaysia and Singapore today reverted to their maritime boundaries in the Johor Straits as at October 25 and December 6 last year respectively — ending months of diplomatic tensions that strained their neighbourly ties.
This comes just before Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tomorrow at the 9th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat.
The return to the 2018 lines followed a mutual agreement for the temporary suspension of the overlapping port limits as announced in a March 14 joint conference in Putrajaya by Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and his Singapore counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.
“At 0001hrs on 8 April 2019, Malaysia and Singapore mutually suspended the implementation of their overlapping port limits and applied their port limits in effect prior to 25 October 2018 and 6 December 2018 respectively.
“This suspension is pursuant to one of the five recommendations in the report of the Working Group on maritime issues surrounding the overlapping Johor Bahru Port Limits off Tanjung Piai and Singapore Port Limits off Tuas, which were agreed upon by the Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia on 14 March 2019, to de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for maritime boundary delimitation,” the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement posted on the Singapore government website today.
The return to the 2018 limits means both countries agree to temporarily suspend all commercial activities in the area including fishing, refrain from anchoring government vessels in the area, and agree to operate in the area in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over the limits of Johor Bahru’s port limits off Tanjung Piai and the port limits off Tuas has been a long-standing issue dating as far back as 1979.
Matters came to a head on October 25 last year when the Attorney General’s Chambers published a document through the Federal Government Gazette that displayed Tanjung Piai’s limits with a significant eastward extension.
In response on December 6, Singapore extended Tuas’ limits. Its transport minister said the island republic will not hesitate to take “firm action’” to protect its territory and sovereignty.
Both countries also deployed naval vessels to the disputed waters, with Singapore sending at least one armed littoral mission vessel to stake its claim.