Thursday, November 22, 2007

Malaysia optimistic of success

By : V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

SPIRITS are high in the Malaysian camp ahead of the second round of oral submissions before the International Court of Justice today in the Pulau Batu Puteh case.

The Foreign Ministry under-secretary in charge of adjudication and arbitration, Raja Nazrin Aznam, said the Malaysian side was optimistic that it would succeed in convincing the ICJ.

"We may be exhausted but morale is high as we are working as a team. We want to put in a sterling performance before allowing the court to decide on the dispute."

The team is assisted by a support staff comprising university lecturers, those with legal knowledge and government officials with technical know-how.

On Tuesday, the team gathered for a brain-storming session soon after Singapore completed its submission. Tasks were delegated as to who should attend to points raised by Singapore.

Malaysia will submit over the next two days.

A secretariat has been set up at the hotel where the Malaysians are staying, and Raja Nazrin said meetings were being held daily, with everyone given tasks, including clarifying issues raised by the republic.

Last week, the production team worked until the wee hours of the morning to ensure that texts of speeches to be delivered before the court were in order.

"Since last week, all of us have had only two or three hours of sleep a night," said Raja Nazrin, who has been involved in the case since 1993.

He said all written submissions in folders were presented to the court registry by 9am, an hour before judges were on the Bench.

After the final rebuttals, the court is expected to make its ruling next year on the territorial dispute, which began in 1979.

The island, located 7.7 nautical miles from Tanjung Penyusuh on the Malaysian mainland, is currently under the jurisdiction of Singapore.

"Pulau Batu Puteh will remain in the hands of Singapore if we do not go through the legal process, and we have at least a 50 per cent chance of regaining the island by referring the dispute to the court," he said.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail will kick-start Malaysia's submission today, followed by five other speakers.

Malaysia's case is anchored on the basis that the island has belonged to the Johor Sultanate from time immemorial and that the British merely had the permission of the rulers to build and administer the Horsburgh lighthouse.

Singapore had argued that Pulau Batu Puteh was no man's land when the British took lawful possession of the island in 1847 and built the lighthouse there - The New Straits Time

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