Monday, November 05, 2007

Pulau Batu Puteh case begins tomorrow

Pulau Batu Puteh is about the size of a football field, and holds a lighthouse, communication tower, helipad and jetty constructed by Singapore.

PUTRAJAYA: A 12-day hearing on the territorial dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge between Malaysia and Singapore will begin at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, from tomorrow.

The proceedings come more than four years after the two countries signed an agreement to refer the case to the court, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

In the agreement signed on Feb 6, 2003 here, Malaysia and Singapore requested the court to determine to whom the sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, and the two adjacent marine features, Middle Rocks and South Ledge belongs to.

The agreements were ratified by parliaments of both nations which agreed to accept and be bound by the court's decision.

Pulau Batu Puteh, called Pedra Branca by Singapore, is 7.7 nautical miles off Johor and 25 nautical miles from Singapore.

It is about the size of a football field, and holds a lighthouse, communication tower, helipad and jetty constructed by Singapore.

The dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh arose in 1979 after Malaysia published new official maps showing it as part of its territory.

After 1980, Singapore prohibited local fishermen from carrying out their activities and seeking shelter during bad weather.

At present, the island is under Singapore's control.

Singapore asserts that it has sovereignty as it has maintained the Horsburgh lighthouse there since 1851.

Malaysia's stand is that she was not making a claim over Pulau Batu Puteh as it was always part of her territory.

In Malaysia's view, the lighthouse was built and administered only by consent of the Sultan of Johor, which was granted in 1844.

Both countries tried to resolve the issue through diplomatic means, but at their first meeting in February 1993 Singapore extended its claim to Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Subsequently, both countries agreed in 1994 to refer their dispute to the ICJ but it was put on the back burner pending the settlement to the Sipadan and Ligitan territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The ICJ on Dec 17, 2002, ruled in favour of Malaysia.

The Malaysia-Singapore dispute will be heard by a 16-man panel led by court vice-president Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawaneh and two ad-hoc judges appointed by Malaysia and Singapore.

Court president Rosalyn Higgins had disqualified herself as she was involved in preparing the case for Singapore.

The Malaysian legal team is led by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, James Crawford, Nicolaas Jan Schrijver, Marcelo G. Cohen and Penelope Nevill.

Both parties, apart from raising principles and rules of international law, will also rely on historical background and map evidence, to argue their case.

Judgment is expected in the middle of next year - The New Straits Time

Isu Pulau Batu Puteh

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