Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pulau Batu Puteh 'either Johor's or no-man's land'

V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

THE International Court of Justice has to only determine whether Pulau Batu Puteh (PBP) was part of the Johor empire or if it was a no-man's land.

Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, who is representing Malaysia in determining whether the sovereignty of PBP belonged to Malaysia or Singapore, said the island formed part of the Johor sultanate.

He said Singapore placed its claim firmly and exclusively on events between 1847 and 1851 on the basis that the island was owned by acquisition.

"There is no doubt that the sultanate of Johor, before 1824, encompassed an area which covered north and south of the Singapore Strait, including Pulau Batu Puteh," he said in his submission entitled: "PBP: Malaysia's case."

He listed eight reasons, with strong inferences, that PBP belonged to Johor. Among them were:

- The Treaty of Cession of Singapore, between the British East India Company and the sultan and the temenggong of Johor, implied that Johor had sovereignty over islets beyond 10 miles of its coast. It would then not be logical to treat PBP differently. PBP is about 25 nautical miles from Singapore.

- The sovereignty of PBP could be derived from the correspondence between the governor of Butterworth, the Prince of Wales (Penang), Malacca and Singapore in 1844.

The temenggong had stated he had no objection to a proposal to build a lighthouse near Point Romania, Peak Rock or at "any spot deemed eligible".

Lauterpacht said it could be PBP, but unfortunately Malaysia does not have the governor's letter to the temenggong although Malaysia has requested Singapore to produce it.

On another matter, Lauterpacht said a letter written by the acting state secretary of Johor in 1953 to the British on the position of PBP, only meant that Singapaore did not claim ownership.

"He was using the ownership in the private sense. In any case, he could not have meant sovereignty since he lacked the capacity to dispose of Johor's territory," he said.

Another counsel, James Crawford, said Singapore's contention that the Johor sultanate had "disappeared" was wrong.

He said chief justice of Singapore Chan Sek Keong, last week put forward his theory of the disappearing sultanate which could be contradicted on various counts.

Crawford in his submission said after the Dutch destroyed the sultan's capital in Riau, Sultan Mahmud III went to Pahang and finally to Lingga.

He died in 1812, leaving behind sons, Abdul Rahman and Husein.

Husein was chosen as the successor and recognised by the British and the temenggong.

He said the temenggong who was based in Singapore, and Husein, then signed a treaty of friendship with Singapore in 1819.

At that time, there was a conflict between Husein and Abdul Rahman with the Dutch taking one side and the British the other.

"The 1885 agreement between Husein and the temenggong was the beginning of the end for the former who was later confined to Kesang," he said.

Crawford said in the same year, Temenggong Abu Bakar became the Sultan of Johor.

He advanced the argument that the Johor sultanate had the orgininal title to PBP before the construction of the Horsburgh lighthouse.

Another Malaysian counsel, Nicholaas Jan Scrijver, said the 1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty not only split the Johor-Riau-Lingga sultanate but also divided it into two separate spheres of influence.

"Islands south of the Straits of Singapore were left within the Dutch sphere of influence while all the territory and islands in the strait and north of it were placed under British rule. This included the Johor Sultanate," he said.

However, he said Johor continued to exercise sovereignty over its territory, including all islands in the straits of Singapore. PBP remained the territory under the sovereignty of the Johor Sultanate and so after 1824, it fell within the British sphere of influence - The New Straits Time

No comments: