Room for negotiation on maritime borders?

A politician in Johor states that a possible solution to save the livelihoods of these fishermen is to negotiate a redrawing of the maritime border between Malaysia and Singapore in the Strait of Johor to allow more space for the fishermen.

Kota Iskandar state assembly member Pandak Ahmed told the media that he will put forward a motion in the state assembly meeting next Monday (September 11) to redraw the maritime border between Malaysia and Singapore in the Strait of Johor.

However, Dr Koh of RSIS told CNA that he was “somewhat skeptical” of the proposal, noting that Johor’s maritime disputes such as the Pedra Branca issue were a “thorn in relations” between Johor governor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar and the Johor government. Malaysian Federal Government.

“The issue of maritime borders raised by the Johor politician has to be addressed by the federal government. Hence the onus is on Putrajaya to start the discussion with Singapore,” said Dr. Koh.

He said that although it is unlikely that Singapore will consider moving its maritime borders as it involves territorial sovereignty, there may be room for negotiation after meetings were held in 2019 to discuss maritime demarcation after a previous disagreement.

Singapore protested Malaysia’s unilateral expansion of the Johor Bahru port border off Tanjung Biai, which overlapped with the Singapore port border off Tuas in October 2018.

It said the move led to Malaysian government ships making frequent incursions into Singapore waters, with the republic subsequently expanding the boundaries of its ports in response, which were still in its territorial waters.

Both subsequently agreed to suspend their overlapping port claims and return to their former frontiers, as well as not to allow and suspend all commercial activities in the area, and not to anchor any government ships there.

A committee has also been set up to study legal and operational issues related to the maritime dispute to provide a basis for negotiations.

Given the ongoing meetings, Dr Koh said: “At first glance, this (change in maritime boundaries) does not seem like a reasonable option; it is, after all, about sovereignty and of course a matter of principle.

“But I would argue that this possibility is not entirely impossible – especially since Anwar’s government is likely to be considered more realistic in dealing with it.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Serena noted, the reality is that fishing in the area along the Strait of Johor is becoming increasingly unavoidable, as the needs of economic redevelopment are likely to take precedence over the livelihoods of local villagers.

She acknowledged that the bright side is that these developments will also provide job opportunities for youth in the region.

“Poachers are at risk,” she added. “Unfortunately we can’t keep our water as it was in the 1980s. The whole place is for industry and development. It’s beyond us.”

When the fisherman of Kampung Pindas, Mr. Nasir, returned from the sea, and tied his boat to the pier, he picked up his box of six prawns and sighed.

“It was a disappointing day today but maybe tomorrow will be better,” Mr. Nasir said, looking out at the horizon and reciting a prayer for the next day’s catch.

He added, “Changing jobs is not an option. I want to be a fisherman forever, so I hope things get better.”

(marks for translation)Maritime Security

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