ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia

ICJ rules for S’pore on islet dispute with Malaysia


THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice ruled on Friday in favour of Singapore in a 28-year sovereignty dispute with Malaysia over a tiny but strategic uninhabited island the size of half a football field.


‘The court, by 12 votes to four, finds that sovereignty … belongs to the Republic of Singapore,’ Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh said.


Malaysia claimed original title to Pulau Batu Puteh, while Singapore, which knows the islet as Pedra Branca, argued that sovereignty had passed to it tacitly, having operated the Horsburgh Lighthouse on the island for more than 130 years without any protest from its neighbour.


As for the island’s two rocky outcrops, the court ruled that sovereignty of Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia, while that of South Ledge had yet to be determined as it fell within overlapping territorial waters.


The granite island is considered important for its strategic position and impact on territorial marine boundaries. It lies 7.7 nautical miles off Johor on the eastern approach to the Singapore Strait from the South China Sea.


The court found that the Malaysian sultanate-turned province of Johor had held the original title but had taken ‘no action at all’ regarding the island for more than a century.


‘The court concludes … that by 1980 sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh had passed to Singapore,’ Mr Al-Khasawneh said.


The dispute arose when Singapore protested in 1980 against a new Malaysian map of its maritime boundaries which claimed the islet for itself.


Years of bilateral talks failed to resolve the matter and the parties agreed to seek the intervention of the United Nations’ highest court.


As for Middle Rocks, the tribunal found that original title to the feature should remain with Malaysia as the successor to the Sultan of Johor.


But South Ledge, a feature visible only at low tide, would now fall ‘within the apparently overlapping territorial waters generated by the mainland of Malaysia, Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, and Middle Rocks’, said the judges.


‘… the Court has not been mandated by the parties to draw the line of delimitation with respect to the territorial waters of Malaysia and Singapore in the area in question’.


Both countries have said Friday’s ruling would not affect relations. — AFP


Source: Business Times


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