Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Malaysia's Sovereignty Dispute Team Still Perky Despite Sleepless

From Nor Faridah Abdul Rashid

THE HAGUE, Nov 21 - "Sleepless in the Netherlands." This is what the Malaysian delegation working here tirelessly on the Pulau Batu Puteh sovereignty dispute must have felt over the last few weeks.

They only sleep for about two-and-a-half hours each night but early in the morning they are up and about, in high spirits, ready to tackle the case which is being heard before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The case had started at 10am (5pm Malaysian time) daily for the last 10 days of sitting. On Thursday and Friday the hearing will commence at 3pm when Malaysia replies to Singapore's second final round of oral arguments.

Since the dispute involves legal and historical factors, extensive research had to be done.

Raja Nazrin Aznam, Under-Secretary of the Adjudication and Arbitration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that various agencies were involved in the research work, which had to be carried out thoroughly.

"Our officers get only two-and-a-half hours of sleep, They work until the wee hours of the morning," he told Malaysian reporters covering the case.

Describing the research work as "voluminous and extensive", he said that it was also carried out worldwide in archives and museums.

The parties involved included the Department of Survey and Mapping, the National Archives, the National Hydrographic Centre of the Royal Malaysian Navy and individuals who are experts in their fields, apart from the Attorney-General's Chambers and officers from the Adjudication and Arbitration Division.

Raja Nazrin said that the Johor state government and the Johor palace had also been helping a lot in the preparations for the sovereignty dispute between Malaysia and Singapore concerning Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Malaysia's first navy chief, Tan Sri K.Thanabalasingam, who had written the Letter of Promulgation in 1968, was also involved.

"We have people who can think out of the box," Raja Nazrin said.

The Letter of Promulgation describes the outer limits of Malaysian territoral waters and the so-called foreign claimed waters in West Malaysia for purposes of Royal Malaysian Navy patrols. Malaysia had submitted this letter to the court to show that it regarded Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge and their surrounding waters as Malaysian territory.

Others in the Malaysian delegation who are acting as technical advisors include Tan Ah Bah, Director of Survey (Boundary Affairs Section), Department of Survey and Mapping, and Professor Dr Sharifah Mastura Syed Abdullah, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanitites, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Raja Nazrin said each of the team members had background experience and are experts in their own fields.

"We do not create a team overnight. It is a good team and their spirits are always up," he said, adding that meetings were held everyday.

"Quality control" was carried out at 7am everyday to make sure that all the papers prepared for the judges carried references and the draft speeches must also be checked, he said, adding that up to today, "17,500 pages" had been prepared for the case.

Raja Nazrin also said that the graphics for presentation were all done in-house - Bernama

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