Meet postponed after visit
M’sia-S’pore talks delayed over alleged border trespass by Johor MB
PETALING JAYA: The Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the 14th Meeting of Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) has been postponed following Johor Mentri Besar’s visit to the Johor Baru port on Wednesday.
The meeting was originally scheduled for today.
“The reason for the postponement, as conveyed by Singapore via a Diplomatic Note dated Jan 11, was due to Datuk Osman Sapian’s visit to the Johor Baru port in Malaysian territorial waters on Jan 9,” Wisma Putra said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry however noted that Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali would still be meeting Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan to discuss other bilateral matters between the neighbours.
“This demonstrates that ties between the two countries remain strong.
“The meeting will form the next positive step forward after the fruitful bilateral meeting held between the Foreign Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore on Jan 8.
“Currently, both Foreign Ministers are in communication and agreed that both sides should remain calm and not sensationalise the matter,” said Wisma Putra.
It added that the ministry is confident that the current momentum of engagement between Malaysia and Singapore will continue.
Putrajaya also reiterated its commitment to strengthen bilateral relations with Singapore based on equality and mutual respect, said Wisma Putra.
Meanwhile in Johor Baru, Osman claimed that his visit was nothing more than an excuse for the island republic to postpone the annual JMCIM meeting.
He said that the meeting was purposely postponed for them to bring out other issues after facing objection from Malaysia regarding the territorial waters and air space dispute in Pasir Gudang.
He added that his visit on Wednesday to the area was nothing more than a regular visit to the MV Pedoman crew, which was stationed within Malaysian territorial waters.
“I have no intention to provoke anyone; it is my usual visit to send food supplies to civil servants who are working on the MV Pedoman, because we have sent supplies such as rice, sugar and oil every two weeks.
“There are 23 crewmen onboard that vessel, and they cannot go anywhere to find supplies, so that is why I decided to go there,” he told reporters after launching the Lantern Festival for Chinese New Year at Taman Impian Emas, here, on Saturday.
He added that he had every right as the Mentri Besar to offer his help aside from getting a clearer picture of the dispute that has been dragging on for quite some time.
“This is just my action as the head of the state government, to see the work that has been done by our civil servants and to express my gratitude to them.
“The waters that I entered are still within our borders, and it is my right to go and visit the area,” he said.
Osman added that his visit to MV Pedoman was also made known to Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Senator Datuk Marzuki Yahya.
He also said that, as of now, he has yet to receive any official notification from Azmin and Saifuddin on the JMCIM adjournment.
“I have only received a Whatsapp message through the secretarygeneral from the Singapore foreign ministry saying that the meeting has been postponed,” he said.
Meanwhile a Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, in a statement, said the country sent a diplomatic note to Malaysia on Jan 11 to protest the unauthorised visit by Osman to Marine Department vessel Pedoman.
They claimed the ship was anchored illegally in Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas.
“Such a provocative act went against the spirit of the agreement reached a day earlier by Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Saifuddin Abdullah, to resolve bilateral issues in a calm and constructive manner.
“The intrusion created an atmosphere unconducive to hold the JMCIM, leading to Singapore’s decision to postpone the meeting, which Malaysia had agreed to.
Nevertheless, Singapore welcomes Mohamed Azmin Ali’s initiative to make a bilateral visit.”