May 23 – The International Court of Justice ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca and the Malaysian politicians are having a field day turning the whole issue into a fully blown political debacle. The local media is painting the picture that Malaysia had lost what was rightfully Malaysia’s and publised a lot of negative comments bashing the government for their failure to defend our territory.
The local media had failed to present an indepth study of the ICJ findings (attached) which I wish to summarise as follows;
Basically in a nutshell, the ICJ had reasoned from various historical writings, treaties and letters, that the Sultanate of Johor was the original owner in the 16th century. This meant that ICJ rejected Singapore’s claim that Pedra Branca was terra nullius (belonged to no one) and that in 1847 when the British took ownership by building the Horsburgh Lighthouse.
However, the ICJ found that the activities carried out by Singapore in the latter half of the 20th century which included investigation into marine accidents in the waters around Pedra Branca, control of visits to the island, reclamation plans and the installation of communications equipment were carried out as “titre de souverain” or as a manner to be carried by a responsible owner.
The ICJ also noted that there was no protest at all from the Malaysian side against any of the activities except for the installation of military equipment.
Most important of all, a 1953 letter from the Johor Acting State Secretary informed the colonial authorities in Singapore that Johor did not claim ownership over Pedra Branca. That’s letter basically sealed and delivered the ownership to Singapore.
The 16 judges of the ICJ voted 12 to 4 in Singapore’s favour.
The ICJ awarded the Middle Rocks to Malaysia as there were no “titre de souverain” activities at all from Singapore at any time.
I find that ICJ had been very fair in their award. We had a very weak case to start with without any solid evidence except for claims that there was a letter that the British asked Johor for permission to build a lighthouse and to make matters worse, we submitted some doctored photos of the island which make it looked nearer to the mainland Johor than it actually was.
With the long term presence which Singapore had on that piece of rock, with no protest from our side for them being there and with the 1953 letter from the Johor giving up our rights versus our thin air arguments, the outcome was quite clear.
Why politicise and fight over something that we have given up some 50 years ago?
Let’s move on.