KOTA KINABALU, July 17 — Former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman is insisting that his successor Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein stand firm on the matter of Malaysia’s sovereignty over the issue of Chinese vessels encroaching on the nation’s maritime territory.
Anifah questioned the government’s commitment to safeguarding its territory even after the latter’s statement yesterday that Malaysia remains consistent in its stand to safeguard its sovereignty, sovereign rights and interests in the South China Sea.
“If Malaysia’s position on the South China Sea has not changed, what prevents the Minister from openly and categorically register our displeasure on the activities of the Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its flotilla in Malaysia’s maritime areas in April and May; and why the Ministry has not responded or replied to the note verbale from the People’s Republic of China objecting Malaysia Partial Submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf?” he said in a statement today.
He said Malaysia’s consistent and principled position of not recognising China’s claims over Malaysia’s maritime areas in the South China Sea would be jeopardised if no action was taken.
Anifah also pointed out that he had not misunderstood Hishammuddin’s statement earlier that Chinese vessels were no longer encroaching on Malaysia’s waters.
“While I appreciate the Minister’s clarification, West Capella was not mentioned at any point during his Press Conference or in the many news reports following.
“Therefore, it was unbecoming on the part of the Minister to state that I misunderstood what he had said when he himself should be blamed for not being clear and transparent in his statement,” he said.
After a press conference on July 15 where Hishammuddin said that the government had handled encroachment issues via bilateral relations, Anifah yesterday said this was not true and encroachment issues were still happening.
Anifah also criticised Hishammuddin for not standing up to China.
Hishammuddin in an immediate response said he spoke in the context of the reaction to West Capella activities where a Chinese survey vessel, the accompanying Chinese Coast Guard and fishing militia were present in Malaysia Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from April to May of this year.
He said he had managed the issue during his first 100 days in the ministry via “intensive diplomatic efforts.”
Anifah today said that Malaysia regarded China as one of its close allies and had to balance its diplomatic relations with its own concerns regarding peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.
“I have had my fair share engaging with China’s Foreign Minister, and raised our concerns on matters relating to the peace, security and stability in the South China Sea, although I must say that it was not always smooth. Indeed, it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemy, but a great deal more to stand up to one of your closest friends as China is indeed one of our closest friends,” he said.
He congratulated Hishammuddin for being able to strengthen bilateral relations within 100 days by “just phone and video calls.”
“A job that I, as a Foreign Minister for over nine years did through travelling, meetings, negotiations, lobbying other Foreign Ministers, Prime Ministers, Presidents and Royals to strengthen relations on various aspects. I salute the new Foreign Minister for being able to do what I was not able to in just 100 days via telephone and video calls only,” he said.