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‘Good try, but no cigar' - ex-S’pore diplomat on de-escalation plan
Published:  Dec 8, 2018 12:46 PM
Updated: 5:09 AM

A former Singapore diplomat has taken aim at Wisma Putra for proposing that both countries cease sending ships into disputed waters as a means of de-escalation.

In a Facebook post, Bilahari Kausikan (photo) sarcastically praised Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s “chutzpah” for suggesting that the republic accept equal responsibility for an issue purportedly created by Malaysia in the first place.

“You create a problem; when we respond to defend our interests, you say that the solution to the problem you created in the first place is for us to cease defending our interests and to accept equal responsibility for the problem.

“Sorry, bro. Good try but no cigar. We are not daft,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bilahari claimed in a separate Facebook post that Singapore is once again being demonised by Malaysia, with many longstanding bilateral issues – including maritime boundary disputes – cropping up after the change in government on May 9.

“The new governing coalition is intrinsically unstable, and held together by a 93-year-old man.

“Political uncertainty in Malaysia inevitably leads to Singapore being used as a bogeyman to hold things together.”

Saifuddin had proposed yesterday that both Malaysia and Singapore stop sending assets into the disputed waters pending discussions on maritime boundary issues.

'Provocative violations'

The proposal was shot down by Singapore, however, with the republic maintaining its stance that Malaysian vessels had repeatedly intruded into Singapore’s territorial waters, following the purported extension of the port limits of Johor Bahru Port on Oct 25.

"Malaysian government vessels should forthwith cease these provocative violations of Singapore sovereignty and return to the status quo ante before Oct 25, 2018, without prejudice to our respective positions on maritime boundary claims in the area," read a statement from Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Saifuddin also said yesterday that Putrajaya had communicated its protest against Singapore's decision to extend the country's port limits off Tuas, calling it a “clear violation of Malaysia's sovereignty and international law.”

This came a few hours after Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen "strongly cautioned" Malaysian vessels against "encroaching" into its waters.

Ng also posted an undated video clip of a Singaporean coast defence ship issuing a warning to a Malaysian Maritime Department vessel.