No harm intended in spy claims: Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR - Singapore has stressed that it does not intend to cause harm to Malaysia-Singapore relations, while remaining silent on allegations that it was spying on its neighbours on behalf of other nations.

Singapore's Minister of State (Ministry of National Development) Desmond Lee said the issue was currently being dealt with through diplomatic channels by the city-state's Foreign Affairs Minister Law K Shanmugam and his counterpart in Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

"Singapore and Malaysia share a great relationship and we intend for this to continue. It is not in our interests to cause harm to our friend and neighbour," he said at an international forum hosted by Umno here today.

Lee was responding to reports in the Australian media, citing documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, that Singapore was helping the United States, Australian, and British spy agencies harvest data passing through an undersea cable partly owned by Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel).

Lee said the allegations, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, were "tenuous and speculative at best".

"Having said that, it is our policy not to comment on intelligence. It is not in the interest of any country to deal with such allegations and claims.... substantiated or unsubstantiated."

Lee, who responded to the claims during a question-and-answer session at the forum, said the issue had been raised in a tone of moderation, which reflected both countries' openness in dealing with various issues.

"As friends, we are able to deal with such questions frankly and openly. The fact that Umno invited us to attend (the forum) speaks volumes about our two countries' relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, Umno veteran and former foreign affairs minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, also a speaker at the forum, said such issues were better dealt with through diplomatic channels.

"This way, both countries will be able to get more accurate information and avoid knee-jerk responses over unverified data," he said.