An annual meeting held between Singapore and Malaysia to discuss a joint development project has been postponed after a Malaysian minister was allegedly seen entering Singapore’s territorial waters via boat, despite him denying he intruded the waters.
In a statement on Saturday by Singapore’s foreign affairs ministry, the meeting — the 14th annual one to discuss the Iskandar Malaysia project to develop the southern tip of Malaysia into a regional economic hub — was deemed “untenable” by a ministry spokesperson due to the reported intrusion by Johor chief minister Dato’ Osman Sapian.
“Singapore therefore proposed to postpone the JMCIM (Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia) meeting, and Malaysia agreed,” added the spokesperson.
However, Dato’ Osman has refuted reports from Singapore news portals that he intruded Singapore’s waters, according to a Malaysiakini report on Saturday.
“I think the area I visited was not the Singapore area because our own police could go in,” he said.
He also wrote on Facebook on Friday that the allegations against him “are just an attempt to solely confuse ” as he was only visiting to observe the Malaysian team taking care of the water border who “are also still in (Malaysia)”.
The incident adds to the ongoing tit-for-tat between Singapore and Malaysia after the former accused the latter of intruding into its territorial waters in recent weeks. This marks the first time that the maritime spat has spilled over onto the Iskandar Malaysia project.
On January 9, Dato’ Osman shared photos of him on Facebook visiting Johor’s MV Pedoman ship which he claims is within the Singapore-Malaysia water border.
“I would like to say thank you very much for the deeds and sacrifices of the safety crew and staff who are committed to patrolling and strengthening our waters,” he said on Facebook in Malay.
The incident came just one day after Singapore and Malaysia’s foreign ministers met and agreed to work together on easing tensions by suspending airspace restrictions which were largely cited as having close ties to the maritime dispute.
According to the Iskandar Malaysia website, Singapore is the second-highest investor in the Iskandar Malaysia project in terms of cumulative committed investments from 2006 to March last year, superseded only by China.
A total of RM262 billion (US$63 billion) has been committed by investors into the project, with close to sixty percent of those investments having been realized, the website added.