Sunday, May 25, 2008

Doing it the Asean way

By NST Editorial

IT was seen live on television and the official score now, so to speak, is level, with the venerable judges of the International Court of Justice ruling for Singapore in the case of Pulau Batu Puteh, giving Malaysia the Middle Rocks, and the South Ledge to be decided in extra time, which will be played out from now.

The live telecast from The Hague may not have had the worldwide audience that the live telecast from Moscow of the pulsating Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea commanded, extra time penalty shoot-out and all.

Nevertheless, the implications of the ICJ ruling could be far reaching for the two nations regarding the customary 12-nautical-mile territorial sea limit and the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone which involves the question of oil and mineral rights, fishing and right of passage, considering that tiny Pulau Batu Puteh is about 14.3km from Johor and 46.3km from Singapore.

And it gets more complicated with Middle Rocks, the two rocks situated about half a nautical mile south of Pulau Batu Puteh, and 1.7 nautical miles from South Ledge, a low tide elevation, which, according to the ICJ, "belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located", not exactly Solomon's justice, but the court was "not mandated to draw the line of delimitation with respect to the territorial waters of Malaysia and Singapore in the area in question".

And these complicated little bits of territories lie at the eastern entrance of the very busy Straits of Singapore, which provides the deepwater passage to the Port of Singapore. But complicated as it may be, both countries chartered the right course, referring the dispute, which arose in 1980, to the ICJ, whose finding is binding on both countries.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim declared the decision "a win-win outcome for both sides"; and continued that on South Ledge and other related matters, both countries would set up a committee and future announcements would be made through it.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry said the country would "put this issue behind us and move on to strengthen our bilateral and regional co-operation". This is the Asean way to solving disputes, with respect for international law and a commitment to settling disagreements in an amicable manner, like the way Malaysia and Indonesia went to The Hague over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan, with the court ruling in favour of Malaysia in 2002, a decision that was accepted by Indonesia - NST

No comments: