Thursday, May 22, 2008

Secret ballot to decide outcome

KUALA LUMPUR: The outcome of the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute tomorrow will be decided through secret ballot by the judges presiding over the issue at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Malaysia's agent for the case at the ICJ, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, said the judges would also state their reasons for their decision.

In a special briefing to journalists at Parliament House yesterday, he said the presiding president of the proceeding would cast his vote in the event of a tie.

"We cannot predict the basis of their decisions," he said.

This was because there was no indication on whether the judges would base their decision on whether the matter involved three distinct issues -- Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge -- as Malaysia had requested, or as a whole as requested by Singapore.

He said the decision could see the republic winning outright, merely getting one of the islands or losing their claim altogether.

It could also see the status quo maintained where Pulau Batu Puteh continued to be under Malaysian sovereignty while Singapore would be allowed to operate the lighthouse there.

Abdul Kadir said the Pulau Batu Puteh decision would not be as straightforward as the case of the Sipadan and Ligitan dispute with Indonesia, which was decided in Malaysia's favour by a vote of 16-1.

"It will not be that easy," said Abdul Kadir, who is the adviser for foreign affairs to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim has urged Malaysians to accept and respect whatever decision was made.

"Both Singapore and Malaysia will not make an issue of it," he said at the Parliament lobby after a briefing on the issue to both Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara members at Parliament House yesterday.

Abdullah also attended the briefing.

Rais said Malaysia and Singapore had agreed to set up a technical committee to manage issues arising from the Pualu Batu Puteh decision, whatever it was.

He said this was to enable the interests of both countries involving the island, such as the lighthouse and fishing rights in the surrounding waters, to be managed and administered based on international norms.

"For example, if Malaysia wins, the status of the lighthouse on the island needs to be determined as to whether we still allow Singapore to manage it." - NST

No comments: