PETALING JAYA: The Foreign Ministry has denied that its minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah gave Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian his “unofficial blessing” to visit the Johor Baru port in Malaysia’s territorial waters.
The ministry said upon learning of the planned visit from a Malaysian enforcement agency on the morning of Jan 9, ministry officials, under the advice of Saifuddin, had immediately and repeatedly contacted Osman’s office and conveyed a message not to proceed with the visit.
“The ministry was concerned that such a visit would be counter-productive after the positive and constructive outcome of the bilateral meetings between the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Minister of Singapore just the day before.
“On Jan 8, both ministers agreed to establish a working group that will study and discuss the legal and operational matters in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground, and to provide a basis for further negotiations,” the ministry said in a statement yesterday.
As a result, the ministry said that it received a Diplomatic Note from Singapore dated Jan 11 protesting Osman’s actions, and consequently postponed the 14th meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, originally scheduled for Jan 14.
The Star reported that Singapore wanted the meeting postponed because it claimed Osman had trespassed into Singapore waters on Jan 9 during a visit to Johor Baru port.
Osman has since insisted he did not trespass into Singapore waters, and that all he did was watch Malaysian security teams do their job.
“Regardless of these recent developments, the ministry wishes to look forward to hosting the first meeting at the end of this month, a testament of its commitment to strengthen bilateral relations with Singapore based on equality and mutual respect,” the statement added.
Attempts to reach Osman for comment after the ministry’s statement were unsuccessful.
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