The Foreign Affairs Ministers of both Singapore and Malaysia recently met on 8 January to a positive outcome, albeit a temporary one. Both sides agreed to immediately adopt measures to de-escalate the tensions between the two countries, thereby allowing the appointed committee adequate time and space to iron out the finer details of any agreements that the two sides come to.

We opined previously that this latest move felt a lot like an orchestrated wayang that detracts precious attention and resources from genuine cost of living pressures that are faced by citizens on both sides of the causeway.

It seems that the wayang is going to continue, especially on the Malaysian side. Local mainstream media outlets as well as the alternative IB pages widely reported on how Malaysian government vessels continue to ply our territorial waters off Tuas. There were as many as five but one continues to defy the spirit of the negotiations and continue to operate within Singapore territorial waters. MV Pedoman remained behind, having replaced its counterpart, MV Polaris. Both vessels belong to the Malaysian Marine Department.

It was even more disappointing that the Menteri Besar of Johor, Osman Sapian, chose this most inopportune of timings to pay a visit to the crew of MV Pedoman to learn more about the contested areas from the Captain of the vessel. He also took the opportunity to thank the crew and their counterparts in the security and public services for their "commitment to patrol and defend their waters". This was of course, posted on his own Facebook page.

This move by the Johor MB brings into question the sincerity and commitment of the Malaysian government in finding feasible and sustainable solutions to the conflict. Barely three days after the Malaysian Foreign Minister visited Singapore to start discussions, the Johor MB placed himself in a Malaysian government vessel in our territorial waters. He had the temerity and audacity to post the visit on his own Facebook page. Why couldn't he learn more about the incident and thank his officers on land? What message was he trying to send to us here in Singapore? 

Could there also be cleavages and differences in how the Malaysian federal government and the local Johor government want to approach the issues?

This may also demonstrate that all is not well in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Osman, formerly from UMNO, is now a member of the ruling coalition and is a Secretary of Johor PH and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi). What he has done by visiting a Malaysian government vessel in Singapore's territorial waters is inconsistent with the approach articulated by the federal government (and by extension, the PH coalition) and is, to put it mildly, disrespectful.

Regardless of whether this was a political wayang staged by the Malaysian government to put pressure on us during negotiations, or whether we are dealing with a single, ambitious, loose cannon who is looking to ingratiate himself with important power brokers in the PH coalition in order to become a Minister, the Singapore government must remain focused on preserving the the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country.

Going by the PAP's rationale, millionaire salaries are required to attract capable people to become Ministers. They made so much noise over the past two months, trying to rally Singaporeans behind the country. One by one, they took their turn in the spotlight, including designated future PM, Heng Swee Keat. Other fourth generation leaders also followed suit. Now, they must walk the talk. Whether it is Osman's own personal defiance, or an orchestrated attempt by the Malaysian government to pressurise us, will our millionaire Ministers prove that they are worth every penny?

It is time we put their own theory to the test.


The writer, Kelvin, is confused. 


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