Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Singapore high commissioner meets Malaysian official amid spying allegations

Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia Ong Keng Yong on Tuesday met Othman Hashim, the secretary-general of Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Ministry, to clarify allegations that Singapore spied on Malaysia.

Mr Ong was summoned by Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs after fresh media reports surfaced, alleging that Singapore had aided an intelligence group in spying on Malaysia.

Malaysia said it is deeply concerned by the allegations, adding that such activities should not be carried out amongst partners and close neighbours.

Mr Ong is the third international diplomat to be summoned by the Ministry this month, after Australia and the United States, following leaked reports from American whistleblower Edward Snowden of an alleged global espionage network.

According to Mr Ong, the meeting lasted for just over 10 minutes, during which Mr Othman sought clarification from him regarding media reports alleging Singapore's spying on Malaysia.

Mr Ong said he was unable to comment on the allegations because he did not have any specific information and has referred the media reports to the relevant agencies in Singapore.

Mr Ong also took the opportunity to reaffirm that Singapore values good relations with Malaysia and that both countries have an excellent bilateral relationship and cooperate closely on many matters of common interest.

He added that Singapore has no interest in doing anything that might harm its partners or the friendship between the two countries.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had already summoned the heads of the US and Australian missions earlier in November in protest over reports that a vast US-led surveillance network included a listening post in America's Malaysian embassy.

Mr Anifah has, in a statement, expressed grave concerns over the alleged spying and promised a thorough investigation.

It is a serious matter, he said, if the allegation is proven to be true, adding that spying on a neighbour is unacceptable and goes against the true spirit and commitment of good neighbourly relations.

Malaysian ministers have condemned the alleged spying activities as an infringement of the country's sovereignty.

Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysia’s multimedia and communication minister, said: "Of course, we cannot tolerate any form of spying, especially among the… friendly nations. I'm not referring to anybody in this case, unless you come up with the proper evidence and proof.”

Lawmakers have tried to raise an emergency motion to condemn the alleged spying, but the motion was rejected by the speaker as non-urgent.

Protest notes were also handed over to Australia and the US on November 1.

Both countries have declined comments on issues of security.

Monday's report in the Sydney Morning Herald said Singapore and South Korea were playing key roles in a "Five Eyes" intelligence network involving the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

It quoted a top-secret US National Security Agency (NSA) map that it said was published by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

As a major hub for regional telecommunications traffic, Singapore was an important link in the surveillance network, it said. -Channel News Asia

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