‘Not surprised’ by Malaysia’s move to drop challenges on Pedra Branca: Jayakumar

‘Not surprised’ by Malaysia’s move to drop challenges on Pedra Branca: Jayakumar

pedra branca
The tiny island of Pedra Branca sits at the entrance to the Singapore Strait about 30km east of the city state. (File photo: Reuters)

SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s decision to drop its legal challenges on Pedra Branca’s sovereignty is not a surprise, said Professor S Jayakumar on Thursday (May 31), who added that the latest development has “put the matter to rest amicably”. 

Professor S Jayakumar is the chair of Singapore’s Pedra Branca International Court of Justice (ICJ) Committee. Alongside Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, they form the core of the country’s legal team for this case. 

Professor Jayakumar, Professor Koh and Mr Chan were also part of the original team that argued Singapore’s case at The Hague in 2007. 

In response to media queries about Malaysia's decision to discontinue legal proceedings, Professor Jayakumar said in a statement that he was “very surprised” when the former Malaysian government filed two applications to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year to revise and to interpret a 2008 judgement that awarded the sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore. 

The former deputy prime minister said the Singapore team, alongside the foreign legal counsel, felt that Malaysia’s cases “had very weak legal basis”. 

“We were very confident of our own legal case on both applications,” he said. “Therefore I am not surprised that the new Malaysian Government had proposed to discontinue both these cases. This has put the matter to rest amicably.” 

He added that he began working with the legal team on the cases since last February, and that all members of the team were fully prepared for the upcoming oral hearings at the ICJ. 

“Some members of the team are disappointed that the cases will not be heard. They had put in a lot of work and were looking forward to arguing our cases before the ICJ Judges,” he added. 

Nevertheless, Professor Jayakumar said he has been cheered by the way the Singapore team has worked on the cases throughout the past one and a half years. 

He was, for one, “very impressed” by the legal acumen and dedication of the younger lawyers in the team. 

“The more senior lawyers … have worked very well with the younger international lawyers in the team,” he said. “We now have a new generation of highly competent international lawyers. We are in good hands when similar international legal disputes arise in the future.” 

He also highlighted the “great inter-agency team effort”, which involved close collaboration between various agencies like the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

He also acknowledged the “excellent trio of foreign legal counsel”, comprising Professor Alain Pellet, Mr Rodman Bundy and Mr Daniel Muller.

Source: CNA/sk