Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sultanate's 'continuity still existing today'

By: V. Anbalagan reporting from The Hague

THE Johor sultanate, dating back to 1511, had shown a remarkable continuity existing until today, the International Court of Justice was told. Counsel for Malaysia, Professor Nico Schrijver, said this continuity was reflected in the survival of her name, her dynasty, the allegiance of her people and the control of territory.

"In particular, there is continuity of treaty relations concerning territory from 1824 to 1995," he said in the second round of oral submission on Thursday.

The ICJ is hearing the territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh (PBP) and the two adjacent maritime features, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Malaysia's stand is that the features are part of the Johor sultanate from time immemorial and the British sought the permission of the rulers to build and administer a lighthouse for navigational safety on PBP.
Singapore has sought to dismiss the claim, citing that PBP was an uninhabited island with no people to pledge allegiance to the ruler.

On Monday, Chief Justice of Singapore Chan Sek Keong told the court that Malaysia did not provide evidence that the sultanate had ever exercised sovereignty over PBP to claim original title.

Chan said the traditional Malay concept of sovereignty was based on control of people rather than control of territory and as such the sultanate's territorial boundaries could not be determined.

The Johor sultanate began in 1511 with the fall of the Malacca empire to the Portuguese and the defeated ruler fled and established a new capital along the Johor river.

The capital of the sultanate would later shift to Riau and then finally to Lingga, thus giving rise to the name "Johor-Riau-Lingga sultanate".

Schrijver said when the capital was destroyed, the ruler and his followers relocated and the people continued to give allegiance to him.

"When the ruler was forced to flee as a result of the Portuguese attack, he was guided to a new site by his Orang Laut, who then informed the people where he had gone."

He said the Orang Laut were under the control of the sultanate and was always in the vicinity of PBP, an important landmark for shippers.

Schrijver said the Anglo-Dutch Treaty and the Crawfurd Treaty, both in 1824, did not alter the status quo of the features.

The Anglo-Dutch Treaty marked the spheres of influence of the British and the Netherlands in the area covered by the Johor sultanate.

The Johor empire was split into two, one headed by Sultan Hussein which continued to be known as Johor sultanate and the other by Sultan Abdul Rahman which became the sultanate of Riau-Lingga.

Under the Crawfurd Treaty, Sultan Hussein and the temmengong of Johor agreed to cede Singapore island together with "adjacent seas, straits and islets to the extent of 10 geographical miles from the coast of the main island of Singapore" to the British.

"The 1844 permission of the sultan and temenggong of Johor to the British to construct the lighthouse on PBP did not involve the transfer of sovereignty," he said.

Another counsel Professor Marcelo Kohen said Singapore's continuous state activities on PBP was to strengthen her sovereignty claim but had collapsed because consent was only given to build a lighthouse.

Hearing continues - The New Straits Time

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