The inevitable has happened. Hate to say it but Khaw Boon Wan was right. In Dec, Khaw had warned of the dangers in the waters, remarking that he doesn't “think it's a question of counting one, two, three. Our preference - in fact that's what we urged them to do - is to withdraw all the ships because it is not conducive...it's not necessary...And we continue to worry about risk because we have two ships facing each other, and who knows, accidents can happen. It may not be intended, but if something happens, it's very troublesome".
Just yesterday, MV Polaris, a Malaysian government vessel from its Maritime Department had an accident with a Greek ship, in our waters. This is one of the vessels that continued to intrude into our waters at the height of the dispute. Johor's Menteri Besar, Osman Sapian, in an act of defiance, visited a sister vessel, MV Pedoman, just days after a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, and Malaysia, Saifuddin Abdullah.
In that meeting, both parties agreed on the establishment of a working group to "study and discuss legal and operational matters relating to the maritime dispute, in order to provide a basis for further discussions and negotiations".
Now that this accident has happened, what would the outcome be?
It is very, very clear now for the watching world to witness how inept, incompetent, and helpless the Malaysian officials are. If they cannot even keep their OWN SHIPS safe, from other vessels plying the waters, they cannot be trusted to keep other ships safe. This is a very important consideration. Commercial vessels are not cheap and companies and countries invest a lot of money and resources to build up their fleets. They also carry valuable goods and cargo. Hence, safety is of paramount importance for the investors and ship-owners.
If that safety cannot be guaranteed, then confidence will be lost. Consequently, these vested parties will look for alternative routes.
Firstly, as if it's not clear enough, this happened in our waters. This fact cannot be over-emphasised. Therefore, our Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) is investigating the accident.
Secondly, it could have been much worse. For now, there have been no reports of any oil spills. The outcome could have been much worse. There could have been injuries or even deaths. Hazardous chemicals could have been released into the sea. The damage on our economy, health, and the environment could takes months, or even years to recuperate, if not be completely irreversible. Who will take responsibility and who will bear the costs of the cleanup or salvage operations?
This accident may seem like a sick joke to the Malaysian officials plying our waters. It's not. You didn't listen. You blatantly ignored international conventions. You were out of your depth. You did not recognise that you are out of your depth. You put yourselves and other people in danger. We cannot allow your incompetence to undermine the safety in our waters.
For their superiors and political masters like Osman Sapian and Dr. Mahathir, it is time to put your egos aside. We don't want to say "I told you so", but we did tell you! Are you going to claim responsibility for this accident or will you be too blinded by your own egos and blame something or someone else? You need to stop playing politics with safety and disregard human lives. If telling your officials to intrude into our waters gave you an erection, then this should, hopefully give you erectile dysfunction. Time to put your egos aside and wake up.
At this side of the causeway, the Singapore government must move faster and stop dragging their feet. The timeline of the negotiations and discussions need to be quickened. We cannot afford to work at the pace decided by Malaysia because it gets riskier by the day. We know that, apart from cases of sabotage, we have the quality, ability, attitude, and track record to ensure safety of navigation in our waters. The government must be more assertive in ensuring the conducive political environment that will enable our officers to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Until these things happen, get ready for more action at the sea.
The writer, Kelvin, is fed-up.