Thursday, December 19, 2002

Malaysia to focus on dispute with Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh

PUTRAJAYA Dec 18 - Malaysia plans to focus on the issue of its rightful claim to Pulau Batu Puteh, disputed by Singapore since 1996, following the positive outcome of arbitration by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia over Sipadan and Ligitan.

"Pulau Batu Puteh will be next," Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.

"A thorough preparation will have to be made and arguments pertaining to the matter to prove our claim that the island belongs to us must be articulated as best as possible," Abdullah, who is also Home Minister, told reporters after attending the ministry's Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering at its premises here.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahthir Mohamad and cabinet ministers also attended the function.

Malaysia and Singapore have failed to resolve the dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh through the normal diplomatic channels.

Singapore has not stated any intention to bring up the matter for arbitration but the dispute may have to be referred to the ICJ due to the inability of both countries to resolve the issue.

Yesterday, the ICJ decided by a 16-1 majority that Malaysia has a rightful claim to Sipadan and Ligitan based on its effective control of both islands.

It resolved the dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia which arose in 1969.

"The cabinet also wish to thank Wisma Putra and the parties involved in preparing the case pertaining to the Sipadan and Ligitan issue.

"Following the positive outcome, it can now be considered that a bilateral dispute with Indonesia has been successfully resolved," he said.

Asked on Malaysia's move to have the United Nations expunge from its records the claim that the Barisan Nasional (BN) has links with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, he said that the UN should take steps to rectify the mistake.

Malaysia has sent a protest to the UN over the matter but has yet to receive a response.

Abdullah said that Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had been directed to take the appropriate action to ensure that the BN's image was restored.

MEANWHILE, Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said today Malaysia has a strong case in its dispute with Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh, particularly following Malaysia's success in getting ownership of the Sipadan and Ligitan islands.

He was confident that facts like the history, management, administration and location of the disputed island would favour Malaysia.

Malaysia was confident that the issue of overlapping claims to Pulau Batu Puteh would be resolved in its favour, he told reporters after chairing the state Exco meeting in JOHOR BAHRU.

He said the Pulau Batu Puteh case would be heard in the ICJ.

Abdul Ghani said the procedure used in settling the Sipadan-Ligitan dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia would apply in the Pulau Batu Puteh case.

Malaysia and Singapore have failed to resolve the dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh through the normal diplomatic channels.

"Our arguments are solid, whether in terms of history, management and administration or location of the island, which lies within Malaysian waters," he said.

Pulau Batu Puteh houses only a lighthouse and is tightly guarded round the clock by Singapore personnel although it is just about 13 km off Malaysian shores.

Malaysian fishermen have complained of being prohibited from fishing in Pulau Batu Puteh waters by Singapore marine police.

No comments: