Ruling for Malaysia

Ruling for Malaysia


MALAYSIA claims that the Sultanate of Johor had, since its establishment in 1512, possessed title to the island, which it calls Pulau Batu Puteh.


That original title was then passed to the State of Johor and, subsequently, to the Federation of Malaya, which Johor joined in 1948.


Malaysia also argued that in 1844, the Johor rulers gave the British permission to build and operate a lighthouse there.


Singapore was merely a lighthouse operator, it argued, and never exercised sovereignty over the island.


The International Court of Justice (ICJ) could rule in Malaysia’s favour in two ways:







THE court could award sovereignty of Pedra Branca, the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Malaysia.


‘This, for Singapore, would not be a happy outcome,’ Ambassador Tommy Koh said.


He observed that during the oral pleadings before the ICJ last November, Malaysia told the court that if it was awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, it would allow Singapore to continue operating Horsburgh Lighthouse.


That was a ‘seductive’ argument, and Malaysia had sought to persuade the court that it would result in a win-win outcome.


Not so, Ambassador Koh said yesterday, as the status quo is that Singapore enjoys both property rights to the lighthouse and sovereign rights over the island.


If Singapore loses sovereignty over Pedra Branca, responsibility for the island’s security would then pass to Malaysia. Singapore would have to withdraw its maritime police and navy from the area.


However, the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s access to the South China Sea would not be affected.


Its aircraft would still have a right to fly over and transit through the airspace above Pedra Branca because the Singapore Strait is an international waterway.


‘Singapore’s hope is that the judges will remain as judges and good international lawyers and not be tempted to become good politicians or good diplomats.


‘I hope that they will not be tempted to say: ‘Let’s go for a win-win solution,’ he added.







THE court could award sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Malaysia and sovereignty over the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Singapore.


But such an outcome is ‘very unlikely’, Ambassador Koh said.


During the oral pleadings last November, Singapore argued that the Middle Rocks and South Ledge both lie within Pedra Branca’s territorial sea.


That means that whoever has sovereignty over Pedra Branca should also have sovereignty over the two smaller maritime features.


Source: Straits Times

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