Johor's Menteri Besar visits Malaysian vessel in Singapore waters off Tuas

Johor’s Menteri Besar Osman Sapian (left) visiting a Malaysia government vessel in Singapore waters off Tuas on 9 January, 2019. (PHOTO: Facebook/Osman Sapian)

Johor’s Menteri Besar, Omar Sapian, visited a Malaysian government vessel anchored in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas on Wednesday (9 January), a day which saw as many as five Malaysian vessels in Singapore waters.

According to the Maritime Port Authority (MPA), there were still two vessels remaining in Singapore waters off Tuas as of 6pm on Thursday.

Osman had also put up a Facebook post on Wednesday to share photos of his visit of the officers on duty aboard Malaysian Marine Department (MMD) vessel MV Pedoman.

He wrote in Malay, “Visiting the members and officers of the Malaysian Sea Department duty on the board of MV Pedoman, the Malaysian Sea Department Master ship in the border area of Malaysia-Singapore.

“Captain Mohamad Azlan Aziz explained the maritime boundary limits in dispute between two countries.

“I thank, for their service and sacrifice, members of safety agencies and public officers who are committed to monitor and defend our waters.”

Johor’s Menteri Besar Osman Sapian (right) visits a Malaysia government vessel in Singapore waters off Tuas on 9 January, 2019. (PHOTO: Facebook/Osman Sapian)

Working group to study, discuss dispute

Osman’s visit came a day after Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah met in Singapore and agreed to form a working group to study and discuss the ongoing dispute over maritime boundaries.

The working group, to be jointly headed by Singapore’s Permanent Secretary (Foreign Affairs) Chee Wee Kiong and Malaysia’s foreign ministry secretary-general Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob, will study and discuss the legal and operational matters, to de-escalate the situation on the ground and provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations. It is expected to report to the two foreign ministers within two months.

Kuala Lumpur had on 25 October last year unilaterally extended the port limits for Johor Baru port, such that they encroach on Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas. As a result, Malaysian government vessels had repeatedly intruded into Singapore waters, sparking off the ongoing maritime dispute.

After the Tuesday meeting, the two countries’ foreign ministers also announced that Malaysia will immediately suspend its permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang for flights for a month, while Singapore will do the same for new aircraft landing procedures for Seletar Airport.

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