Wednesday, November 21, 2007

S'pore: Malaysia had zero activities

By : V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

SINGAPORE yesterday closed its case on the territorial claim over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh and the two adjacent maritime features of Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Its agent, Tommy Koh, said the island republic had proved its case and called on the International Court of Justice to adjudge and declare that the country had sovereignty over the disputed areas.

"Our evidence presents a consistent picture. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together," said Koh in his concluding remark, outlining 10 reasons why the court should decide in Singapore's favour.

He said Malaysia failed to produce evidence that Pedra Branca was a no-man's island and that it was part of Johor.

"Malaysia has failed to prove her only argument, in this case that Johor had an historic title over Pedra Branca."

He said Singapore had shown that the British was in Pedra Branca between 1847 and 1851 without the consent of Johor.

"Malaysia argues that Johor had given permission for the construction of a lighthouse in Pedra Branca. Again, she has not provided evidence of such permission."

He said all that Malaysia relied on was indirect inference from letters which did not mention Pedra Branca.

He said Britain had satisfied the two criteria: intention to acquire the island and state activities undertaken subsequently.

He said from 1847 to 1979, Singapore's sovereignty over Pedra Branca was "open, continuous and notorious".

"It was acknowledged by all and challenged by none.

"It was only in 1979, like a bolt out of the blue, that Malaysia published her map which claimed the island for the first time."

He said in 1953, the acting state secretary of Johor, then a sovereign state, had disclaimed "ownership" of the island.

"This disclaimer is binding on Malaysia under international law."

He said Malaysia also did not demand Singapore to lower its marine ensign flown over Pedra Branca, unlike in Pulau Pisang where the island republic complied.

He said between 1962 and 1975, Malaysia published six maps which attributed Pedra Branca to Singapore while the island republic did not do otherwise to recognise Malaysia's claim.

He said the three maritime features were inseparable because they formed a group and that the court should make a decision that the winner would take all three.

He said Singapore's stand was that the sovereignty should be decided based on who had carried out activities on the island. "Malaysia had zero activities."

Koh said Malaysia's offer to Singapore to continue managing the light house, although appearing magnanimous, was in reality aimed at changing the legal order which had existed for 130 years.

The Malaysian legal team will return on Thursday and Friday to rebut Singapore's case, bringing to a close the 28-year-old dispute.

Decision is expected from the 16-man panel in the middle of next year.

Malaysia maintains that the island had always been part of the Johor empire and the British had sought permission to build a light house for navigational safety - The New Straits Time

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