Friday, November 09, 2007

Singapore had 'control of island since 1851'

By : V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

SINGAPORE has had total control over Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh) since 1851, the International Court of Justice heard yesterday.

Rodman R. Bundy, a counsel appearing for Singapore, said the British took possession of the island between 1847 and 1851 and constructed the Horsburgh lighthouse.

Thereafter, Singapore, was open on the activities on the island which confirmed their ownership, including its territorial waters.

He said none of these activities drew protests from Malaysia.

"Singapore has exercised regulatory authority and jurisdiction over personnel residing on the island, maintaining peace and good order," he said.

"The island is used as a meteorological data collection station and Singapore has exclusive control over visits by third parties to Pedra Branca.

"She had also investigated navigational hazards and ship wrecks in the territorial waters of Pedra Branca and considered sea reclamation works to extend the island."

He said the Singapore flag had been raised for more than 150 years on the island but drew no protest from Malaysia, unlike the 1968 incident at the nearby Pulau Pisang, where the flag was eventually brought down.

He said Malaysia's inaction confirmed its earlier decision that it had disclaimed ownership of the Pedra Branca in 1953.

Bundy was submitting on the territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh and the adjacent features of Little Rocks and South Ledge.

Both countries are asking the court to decide on the sovereignty of the island.

Professor Alain Pellet, who is also representing Singapore, told the panel of 16 judges that it was impossible for Malaysia to find evidence or confirmation that ownership of the island belonged to Johor.

"None of the documents produced could convince the court that Johor had the original title over Pedra Branca."

Malaysia in its written submission asserts that:

* Pulau Batu Puteh, the two features and other islands in and around the Singapore Strait were part of the Johor Sultanate before 1824.

* The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824 had no effect on the sultanate as the agreement only covered islands and territories to the south of the strait.

* Neither Great Britain nor Singapore ever claimed sovereignty over the three features at any time prior to the critical dates in relation to the present dispute (1980 as in the case of Pulau Batu Puteh and 1993 in the case of Little Rocks and South Ledge), and;

* Singapore's legislation and treaty practice, its publications and maps as well as statements by the island republic's officials all confirmed that the three features were not territories of Singapore - The New Straits Time

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