Malaysia proposes to Singapore for both nations to stop sending vessels to disputed maritime border

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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 7): Malaysia has proposed to Singapore for both countries to cease and desist from sending vessels into the disputed border area off Tuas, effective 0000 hours on Dec 8, pending discussions on outstanding maritime boundary issues.

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today the proposal came in light of the disagreements between Malaysia and Singapore on the Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johor Bahru Port published on Oct 25, 2018 and the evolving situation on the ground.

He said the action to desist would be undertaken without prejudice to either Malaysia or Singapore's position on maritime boundary claims over the area in question.

"Of course all Governments are duty-bound to defend the nation's sovereignty. Equally, it is the responsibility of the people to unite behind the Government should this occur. Malaysia would do the same if the situation warrants it.

"However not all disagreements should be seen in terms of challenges to a principle. Rather, all disagreements must be worked through in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation," he said in a statement, today.

Saifuddin said Malaysia had also forwarded the draft agenda for a meeting aimed at the amicable resolution of maritime boundary issues between the two countries which was conveyed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong during his official visit to the republic on Nov 12 and 13, 2018.

He added that it was the hope of the Malaysian Government that the meeting could be convened sometime in the middle of this month.

Saifuddin said Malaysia had communicated to the Government of Singapore through the Singaporean High Commissioner to Malaysia today, its protest to the decision of the Government of Singapore's issuance of Port Marine Circular No 9 of 2018 dated Dec 6, 2018 by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore which purported to extend Singapore's port limits off Tuas.

"The Government of Malaysia highlighted the fact that the new and purported unilateral port limit extension by Singapore encroaches into Malaysia's territorial waters and the established Johor Bahru port limits as indicated in the Federal Government Gazette P.U. (B) 587 "Declaration of Alteration of Port Limits for Johor Bahru Port" published on Oct 25, 2018 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," he said.

Saifuddin said that Dr Mahathir in his Facebook posting yesterday had characterised the Malaysia-Singapore relationship as akin to twins and "there would be differences and there will be competition between us. However, it will help us grow even faster".

He said at certain times, the competition between Malaysia and Singapore would be intense, but regardless of the level of intensity, Malaysia recognised that it was not helpful in the first instance to immediately characterise it in emotive terms, viewing it as challenges to sovereignty.