PETALING JAYA, Dec 8 — Singapore has agreed to negotiate with Malaysia on maritime border issues, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
In a press conference after attending the Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council meeting here, the prime minister said that he was therefore unable to provide a definite answer on the issue.
“The important thing is that Singapore agreed to a negotiation.
“Until we finish with our negotiation, we cannot give a final answer,” Dr Mahathir said.
He added that any problems arising from the issue will be settled legally, and according to “our rights”.
Following Malaysia’s proposal to the republic to have both nations cease and desist from sending its assets into waters off Tuas, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan disagreed with the proposal, but said that his government is still ready to discuss matters.
Singapore media agency Today Online quoted Dr Balakrishnan saying on December 7 that he expressed his concern to Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday about Malaysian vessels allegedly intruding into the republic’s territorial waters.
This, he reportedly said, was after the purported extension of Johor’s port limits on October 25.
Malaysia yesterday proposed that from midnight today, Singapore and Malaysia ‘cease and desist’ from sending assets into the disputed area off Tuas, which is affected by the alteration of Johor Baru’s port limits.
Saifuddin said the proposal has been relayed to Singapore through its High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur today, pending discussions on outstanding maritime boundary issues between the two countries.
Saifuddin added that Putrajaya had informed Singapore of its objections to the decision of the Singapore government over the issuance of a circular two days ago, by the republic’s Maritime and Port Authority which purports to extend Singapore’s port limits off Tuas.
He said Malaysia had highlighted the fact that the new and purported unilateral port limit extension by Singapore encroaches into Malaysia’s territorial waters and the established Johor Baru port limits as indicated in the Federal Government Gazette’s “Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johore Bahru Port”, which was published on October 25 by the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Malaysia.
“This is a clear violation of Malaysia’s sovereignty and international law. The Government of Malaysia therefore called upon the Government of Singapore to withdraw its Port Marine Circular No. 9,” said Saifuddin.
That said, Saifuddin pointed out that Putrajaya hoped that a meeting could be convened in the middle of this month between the two countries to find an amicable resolution to its maritime boundary issues.
On December 6, Singapore’s transport minister had issued a strong warning to Malaysia, promising that it will respond with “firm actions” to protect its territory and sovereignty as the two South-east Asian neighbours lock horns over their maritime borders.
In a statement, Khaw Boon Wan said the island republic is extending its port limits off Tuas with immediate effect as he accused Malaysia of “unilaterally and arbitrarily” extending its maritime territory off Johor.