Malaysia to 'reconsider' its challenge to ICJ judgment on Pedra Branca: Mahathir

Malaysia to 'reconsider' its challenge to ICJ judgment on Pedra Branca: Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will “reconsider” its challenge to the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) judgment on Pedra Branca, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday (May 30).

Speaking at a media conference after the Cabinet’s weekly meeting, Dr Mahathir also said that the government was thinking of expanding Middle Rocks and developing it “into a small island”.

"They (the ICJ) awarded Middle Rocks to us and on Middle Rocks we have already built structures," he said. "It is our intention to enlarge middle rocks so that we can form a small island for us."

Dr Mahathir added that no final decision has been made yet and the government was still mulling over the issues.

Shortly after his media conference, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying it had been informed by the ICJ that Malaysia will discontinue its proceedings on the matter. 

Singapore's foreign minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said the country was "happy to agree" with Malaysia's request.

A rocky outpost located 44km off Singapore’s east coast, the dispute over the ownership of Pedra Branca, referred to by Malaysia as Batu Puteh, dates back to 1979 when Malaysia published a map indicating that the island was within the country’s territorial waters. 

Pedra Branca illustration

Singapore protested and the matter was brought to the ICJ in 2003.

On May 23, 2008, the ICJ ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca, while Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia and South Ledge belonged to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.

Malaysia filed an application on Feb 2, 2017, to revise the ICJ's 2008 judgment. Its case was hinged on three documents discovered in the National Archives of the United Kingdom that demonstrated officials at the highest levels “did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca” during the 1950s to 1960s.

Singapore in May filed its written observations to the revision application, in what it described as a "comprehensive rebuttal".

Malaysia's second application on Jun 30, 2017, sought an interpretation of the same ICJ judgment. It requested the ICJ to declare the waters surrounding Pedra Branca to be Malaysia’s and in turn, the sovereignty of South Ledge belongs to Malaysia – a move that Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as “puzzling”, “unnecessary and without merit”. 

Singapore later responded with its written observations in October.

Public hearings for the two cases were scheduled for next month at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. There was to be four days for the hearing of each case, starting from Jun 11 for the first and Jun 18 for the second.

The legal team that Singapore had assembled for this included Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor S Jayakumar, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.

Source: CNA/zl