Singapore violated airspace 2,058 times: Malaysia

By Martin Carvalho and P. Aruna

A TOTAL of 2,058 incidents of violation of Malaysian airspace by Singapore air force aircraft were recorded by the Defence Ministry since 2008.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said these were detected by the armed forces and Department of Civil Aviation.

"The airspace violations were recorded following the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge," he said in a written reply to Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau).

The ICJ had ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh while Malaysia owned Middle Rocks, several stoney islets less than 1km away.

The court has yet to determine the sovereignty of South Ledge.

Zahid said there were 985 airspace violations in 2008 or an average of 164 incidents a month, 1,286 cases in 2009 or an average of 107 incidents a month and 218 cases last year or average of 18 incidents a month.

There were 19 cases as of May this year, he said, adding that Malaysia had lodged diplomatic protests over the incidents.

Khairy, who spoke to reporters later, urged the ministry to clarify the instances of the airspace violations to determine the extent of the encroachments by the Singapore air force.

"Although there was a drastic decline in the number of cases, any encroachment into Malaysia is a violation of the country's sovereignty," he said.

However, Singapore dismissed the statements from Malaysia as 'baseless'.

The Straits Times reported that Colonel Desmond Tan, a spokesman for the Singapore Ministry of Defence, said: 'Either there was no Singapore government aircraft flying in the area at the time of the alleged violations, or they were Singapore government aircraft operating either within Singapore airspace or exercising the right of transit passage in the Singapore Strait.

'Singapore has refuted Malaysia's allegations via diplomatic notes,' he added.