Good that S’pore has agreed to talks on maritime dispute, says Dr M

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

PETALING JAYA: Following the dispute with Singapore over maritime boundary and airspace, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today expressed confidence both countries will be able to sit together and sort things out.

The island-state last week raised concern that Malaysian government vessels had repeatedly intruded into Singapore territorial waters following the extension of the port limits of Johor Bahru Port on Oct 25.

Malaysia yesterday proposed for both countries to cease and desist from sending assets into the disputed area effective today pending discussions but Singapore did not agree to this.

Mahathir today welcomed a statement by Singapore’s foreign affairs ministry which said the country “remains ready to discuss this issue with Malaysia in a constructive manner in the spirit of preserving our important bilateral relationship”.

“The important thing is Singapore has agreed to negotiations.

“Until we finish with the negotiations, we can’t give a final answer,” said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman after chairing the PH Presidential Council meeting at Menara Yayasan Selangor.

Mahathir was asked why Malaysian vessels had entered the disputed area and what measures would be taken by Putrajaya to resolve the issue.

On concerns that bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore are now greatly strained, Mahathir said: “A lot of people announce their borders on and off and that causes disputes. So, we will settle this (based) on legal provisions and our rights.”

Earlier this month, Putrajaya extended the Johor Bahru Port Limits and informed mariners of the change. This angered Singapore, which said Malaysia did this unilaterally and that Malaysian vessels were now encroaching into its waters.

Mahathir said it was within its rights to extend the Johor Bahru Port Limits and that it had not trespassed onto Singapore’s territorial waters.

In a tit-for-tat move, the island republic decided to extend the Singapore Port Limits off Tuas effective Dec 6.

This extension, which tracks the eastern boundary of the 1999 Johor Bahru Port Limits, was well within Singapore’s territorial waters, it added. Malaysia has since protested this move.

Plot to oust Perak MB?

Meanwhile, on allegations that Putrajaya is part of a coup allegedly aimed at ousting Ahmad Faizal Azumu as Perak menteri besar, as claimed by the state’s opposition leader Saarani Mohamad, Mahathir said he would have to see proof before commenting.

Malay Mail yesterday quoted Saarani, who is also the Kota Tampan assemblyman, as saying an Umno assemblyman was informed on Wednesday that the move to oust Faizal was supported by Putrajaya.

He maintained Barisan Nasional had nothing to do with the plot, reiterating that it was engineered from within PH, placing blame on Abdul Aziz Bari, the Perak DAP deputy chairman and Tebing Tinggi assemblyman.

On an update on a possible anti-party hopping law for “political frogs”, Mahathir said PH is a “democratic government that believes in democracy and democracy allows frogs to jump”.