S'pore postpones meeting with M'sia due to "intrusion" by Johor Chief Minister into territorial waters

Malaysia has also agreed to postpone the meeting.

Kayla Wong| January 12, 03:48 PM

An annual bilateral meeting between Singapore and Malaysia that was originally scheduled for Jan. 14 has been postponed, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced on Saturday, Jan. 12.

The Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) was set up in 2007 for both countries to develop the South Johor economic zone of Iskandar.

Johor Chief Minister visited a Malaysian vessel in Singapore's territorial waters

MFA said in a statement on Saturday, Jan. 12:

"The intrusion by Johor Menteri Besar Dato’ Osman Sapian into Singapore Territorial Waters off Tuas on 9 January 2019 made the 14th JMCIM meeting untenable.

Singapore therefore proposed to postpone the JMCIM meeting, and Malaysia agreed."

A few days earlier on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian went aboard the buoy-laying vessel MV Pedoman.

The Pedoman has 22 crew members and had replaced the MV Polaris, according to Bernama.

The latter had left Singapore waters last Saturday, Jan. 5, as it had to "restock and refuel".

Osman posted pictures of his 'visit' on his Facebook page.

According to The Straits Times (ST), he thanked the "public officers who are committed to monitor and defend" Malaysia's waters.

ST, citing an official source who "could not be named due to the sensitivity of the matter", reported that his visit was not approved by the federal government.

Foreign ministers from both countries met a day before

Just a day before Osman's Facebook post, foreign ministers from both countries had met in Singapore and came to a consensus to suspend Malaysia’s new restricted air space area over Pasir Gudang, Johor, and Seletar Airport’s new instrument landing system for its flight paths.

This was announced in a joint press statement.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, also the man widely viewed as Singapore's next Prime Minister, welcomed the progress in talks between both sides, saying in a Facebook post that it is important for both countries to have "a constructive and peaceful relationship". 

Along with Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean, he had a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week.

As of Thursday, Jan. 10, two Malaysian government vessels remained in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) which was cited in a Channel NewsAsia (CNA) report.

Top image adapted via Singapore Police Force & Osman Sapian's Facebook page.