Monday, December 30, 2002

S'pore needs to fulfil pledge to sign special accord

KOTA TINGGI Dec 29 - Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said today Malaysia hopes Singapore's agreement to sign a Special Accord to refer the overlapping claims on Pulau Batu Puteh to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) next month, could be realised.

MAP shows that Pulau Batu Puteh is located just eight kilometres from Tanjung Penyusop, Pengerang and 23.3 kilometres from Singapore. - Bernamapix.

He said Malaysia welcomed Singapore Foreign Minister S.Jayakumar's statement on the matter and had been prepared to resolve the issue over the claims as soon as possible.

"I hope we can get certainty to sign (the Special Accord), because this thing (claim over Batu Puteh) must move and cannot be left hanging forever," he told reporters after attending the general meeting of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs (MAYC) at the Sekolah Menengah Sains Bandar Penawar Hall, here.

The transcript of the Singapore Foreign Minister's statement was released by the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for the local media, yesterday.

He said Malaysia would set a suitable date for both parties to sign the Special Accord and would accept whatever decision made by the ICJ comprising 15 permanent judges and two additional judges appointed by both countries involved in the claims.

He said pending the ICJ decision on the status of the island, located 15 nautical miles from Pengerang, Kota Tinggi, he hoped the Singapore authorities would not prevent Malaysian nationals from approaching the island.

"This is because we do not have any military intention, instead we want to resolve this dispute in respect of the territorial claim by Singapore on the territory that we consider as ours," said Syed Hamid, who is also the Member of Parliament for Kota Tinggi.

He said based on the history and location of Pulau Batu Puteh, which is close to Pengerang, certainly patrol boats from the Malaysian authorities and local fishermen would stop and move around the island.

"In fact at one time, the area (Pulau Batu Puteh) was a traditional spot for our fishermen to look for fish as it offered a rich fishing ground," he said.

Syed Hamid also suggested that discussions on the overlapping claims on Pulau Batu Puteh were not announced in the media as such a move could sometimes create confusion.

He said as the issue had yet to be resolved, both parties should not claim that they had sovereignty over the island.

"The matter is still being disputed... so Singapore cannot claim sovereignty over it (Pulau Batu Puteh) pending decision by the court, just like what we did in the case of Pulau Ligitan and Sipadan. This is the best way for us to handle bilateral relations," he said.

"Pending going to ICJ, nothing should be done on that island that will change its status. At present our quarrel on this (Pulau Batu Puteh) is that they (Singapore) have fortified the place, they have put up so many structures and so many things on the rock... that is why we are glad that finally Singapore have come with the statement saying that they are willing to sign (the Special Accord) in January," he added - Utusan Malaysia

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