Ex-foreign minister slams Hishammuddin over Chinese vessels claim

Former foreign minister Anifah Aman and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

PETALING JAYA: Former foreign minister Anifah Aman today hit out at Hishammuddin Hussein over the latter’s claim that there had been no further encroachment by Chinese vessels in Malaysia’s waters since he took over at Wisma Putra, saying the minister was either “in denial or ignorant of the facts”.

Anifah, who was foreign minister from 2009 to 2018, said it was only in April that a flotilla of Chinese enforcement vessels was sighted accompanying a Chinese survey vessel in Malaysian maritime areas.

He said he was also reliably informed that Chinese coast guard vessels were sighted in the vicinity of Beting Patinggi Ali in May, June and July.

“I am appalled by the minister’s statement. He is either in denial or ignorant of the facts. Worse, he is playing politics with Malaysia’s maritime and strategic interests,” he said in a statement.

Hishammuddin had made the claim in response to the National Audit Department’s report stating that Chinese ships had encroached into Malaysian waters 89 times between 2016 and 2019.

Anifah said as a country that legitimately owns maritime areas in the South China Sea, Malaysia should not hesitate to categorically state its objection to unauthorised activities by foreign vessels in its waters.

After all, he said, the ministry had found it “appropriate” to issue statements on June 25 and July 12 on the drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

“Surely it would not be too much to expect the ministry to at least summon the ambassador of China to register Malaysia’s displeasure on the unauthorised activities by the Chinese coast guard vessels within Malaysia’s maritime areas in the South China Sea.”

He added that Malaysia had never recognised China’s claims on its maritime areas in the South China Sea.

He urged the government to uphold its position to ensure that Malaysia’s maritime and strategic interests are not jeopardised.

“Failure to do so would be a great disservice to the nation.”

However, he said taking a stand on protecting Malaysia’s interests did not mean that Putrajaya had to be confrontational.

He said it should instead ensure full respect for legal and diplomatic processes and uphold the rule of law whether international law or the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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