Saturday, November 10, 2007

S'pore: Ex-Johor officer disclaimed sovereignty

V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

SINGAPORE claims that a senior Johor government officer had written to the British in Singapore disclaiming sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh.

Professor Alain Pellet, representing Singapore at the International Court of Justice, claimed a former acting state secretary of Johor in a letter on Sept 21, 1953 to the colonial secretary had stated that the Johor government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh.

Pellet was submitting on the territorial dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge between Malaysia and Singapore.

He said the letter from the officer to the colonial secretary showed that Johor never had a claim on Pulau Batu Puteh.

Pellet said the letter amounted to an unequivocal recognition of Singapore's title over Pulau Batu Puteh.

The 1953 correspondence came about when the British wanted to "determine the status of Pedra Branca" with a view to determine the boundaries of the colony's territorial waters.

This led to the Johor authorities being approached for enquiry, he said.

Another counsel, Rodman R. Bundy, said the British did not enter into an agreement with the Johor ruler before it built the Horsburgh lighthouse on the island between 1847 and 1851.

"The ruler did not mention Pedra Branca when the British were negotiating on the terms of agreement to build a lighthouse on Pulau Aur in 1900."

He said Malaysia was unable to produce the written agreement between Johor and the British on the construction of the lighthouse in Pulau Batu Puteh, unlike Pulau Aur and Cape Ricardo.

He said in 1952 Malaya wanted to fund the management of Pulau Pisang, Pulau Aur and Cape Ricardo lighthouses and yet there was no mention of Pulau Batu Puteh.

Counsel Loretta Malintoppi said six maps published by the Malaysian authorities between 1962 and 1975 placed Pedra Branca as a sovereign of Singapore.

Malaysia's case rests on the premise that Pedra Branca was part of the Johor Sultanate while Singapore asserts that the island was no man's land before the British acquired it to build a lighthouse for navigational purpose.

The island republic's legal team yesterday completed their first round of argument after four days of submission.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar, in his concluding remarks, said in international law, one could acquire a sovereign title after carrying out a series of acts on a disputed territory.

He said the British acquired the island for a sovereign purpose and Singapore, the successor to the title, continued with the lighthouse activities and maintained peace and order on the island.

He said Malaysia first made a claim in 1979, after 130 years of silence and non-conduct.

"Certainly, it is very clear Singapore was in possession of Pedra Branca and the two adjacent features," he said, adding even the Dutch recognised the British authority over it after 1851.

Foreign Ministry ambassador-at-large Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad will make his opening statement on Tuesday, outlining Malaysia's argument that Pulau Batu Puteh and the two features were always part of her territory.

Malaysian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Datuk Noor Faridah Ariffin and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail will also speak on that day to entrench Malaysia's case - The New Straits Time

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