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Who was this important State Secretary acting on behalf of the Government? Is he around?

THE HAGUE, May 23 — Malaysia’s conduct since 1953 showed that sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh had passed over to Singapore, the International Court of Justice said today, ruling 12-4 in favour of the republic.

This decision resolves a thorny issue that has haunted bilateral ties between the countries for 28 years. But the ICJ decision will not be the final word on this matter in Malaysia where loss of territory to Singapore – even an outcrop of rocks – could turn into a political issue. For the past few weeks, Johoreans have been conducting special prayers in the hope that the court will decide in favour of Malaysia.

But the ICJ noted that the strength of Singapore’s claim lay in a letter sent by the state secretary of Johor in 1953 to the Singapore government where he informed that “the Johore government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca.” It could not accept Malaysia’s argument that the state secretary did not have authority or legal capacity to disclaim or confirm ownership of the island, said Judge Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh.

He also noted that between 1962 and 1975 Malaysia published

several maps which attributed Pulau Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca to Singapore. This gave strength to Singapore’s claim of sovereignty.

The ICJ by a majority of 15-1 gave Malaysia ownership of Middle Rocks and said that the South Ledge belongs to the state in which territorial waters it is located in.

No larger than a football field, Pulau Batu Putih is considered important for its strategic position in the Straits of Malacca. It lies 7.7 nautical miles from Johor. The dispute over the island arose in 1980 when Singapore protested over a Malaysian map of its maritime boundaries which claimed the island.

Both countries tried unsuccessfully to resolve the competing ownership and in 2003 referred the matter to the ICJ.

The court’s decision was telecast live over national television in Malaysia this afternoon.

Johor letter ‘gave island to Singapore’


One Comment

  1. The acting state secretary was Seth Bin Saaid.

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