There’s a new sheriff in town now, ex-diplomat tells Singapore

The limits of the Johor Bahru port are among the latest issues of contention between Malaysia and Singapore. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A former ambassador has told Singapore to get used to the fact that the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government will not allow the island republic to have its way like the previous administration.

Speaking to FMT on condition of anonymity, he said Singapore’s “needlessly provocative behaviour” of late was an attempt by the city-state to destabilise the PH federal government.

The former ambassador, who served with Wisma Putra for decades, noted that the actions came as Putrajaya was dealing with “a host of pressing issues” following the change of government in the May 9 polls.

He was responding to the current war of words over several bilateral issues, such as airspace and maritime borders near Johor, which he said had more to do with recent administrative changes in Singapore.

Yesterday, the island republic said it had decided to extend the Singapore port limits off Tuas, in an escalation of the tension.

This came three days after Malaysia expressed concern that the new Instrument Landing System at Singapore’s Seletar Airport was encroaching into Pasir Gudang airspace. The transport ministers of both nations have been in contact over the matter.

A day later, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urged Putrajaya to “cease intrusions” by some Malaysian government vessels into Singapore waters.

Balakrishnan raised the issue of Malaysia’s recent “purported extension” of the Johor Bahru port limits, which he said encroached into Singapore territorial waters off Tuas.

The former ambassador said Singapore had been used to having its own way for some time now.

“The Najib Razak administration was more interested in working with Singapore to protect itself from the fallout of the 1MDB scandal than standing up to Singapore,” he said.

He added that Malaysia had every right to challenge any decision by a foreign country that impinged directly on its own sovereignty.

“Singapore had best get used to the fact that there is now a new government in Putrajaya that prioritises Malaysia’s interests above all else.

“If it cherishes good relations with its neighbours, Singapore should work quietly to resolve outstanding issues rather than turn every disagreement into a public spat.”

The former ambassador also reminded Singapore that shortly after gaining control of Putrajaya, PH decided against pursuing its claims to Pulau Batu Puteh in the International Court of Justice.

“Clearly this was intended as a gesture of goodwill. It is unfortunate that Singapore continues to adopt a confrontational approach towards Malaysia.”

Former Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan earlier this week claimed Putrajaya was using its southern neighbour as a “bogeyman” due to political uncertainty in Malaysia.

Kausikan said it was “not an accident” that so many bilateral issues had resurfaced following the change of government in Malaysia.

Before the airspace and maritime border issues surfaced this week, there had also been a revival of an old dispute over the price of water sold to Singapore.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said the water prices should be raised by at least 10 times but Singapore said both nations should stick to the 1962 Water Agreement.

Both have agreed to discuss the matter.

In October, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian revived the possibility of building the crooked bridge to replace the Causeway, mooted by Mahathir during his first stint as prime minister in 2000.

However, Singapore is not agreeable to it.