Pulau Batu Puteh a.k.a Pedra Branca

Posted: May 23, 2008 in Pulau Batu Puteh
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The dispute between Malaysia and Singapore on Pulau Batu Puteh and its two adjacent marine features has been going on for almost 30years, Pulau Batu Putih(PBP) is of 7.7 nautical miles off Johor and 25 Nautical miles from the country, Singapore. Almost the size of a football field and holds a lighthouse the argument started between the two stated country after Singapoore lodges a note(2/14/1980) protesting on the publishing of Malaysia’s continental shelf map showing Pulau Batu Puteh as its territory(1979).

          On 1993 and 1994, bilateral negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore’s government were held in the hope of resolving the dispute but the talks failed to reach a resolution. The involvemnet of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) (Sept. 1994) was agreed by the then Prime Minister(now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Holding a communications tower, a helipad and a jetty which were constructed by Singapore claiming it has the rights over the island which has been an irritant in the bilateral relations between the two countries.

          Singapore had placed its military communications in 1977 and had sent its naval vessels to PBP in 1986. However based only by harping on a 1953 letter from the then Johor State secretary M. Seth Saaid who had written to the Singapore government to renounce ownership of the island is found rather meek. Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail responded that Seth did not have the legal authority to reply as the defence and externail affairs of Johor then became under the jurisdiction of the British following the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1948. This union brought together 9 Malay states including Johor under one umbrella. Abdul Ghani then said that the conduct of Singapore after Feb 14, 198 must be disregared as a normal continuation of its primary acts of administering the light house. Saying that Singapore endeavoured to create itself a maritime regime in this region Malaysia also said that Singapore wanted to radically change the basis on which it required the lighthouse on PBP.

          Here, Malaysia wants the ICJ to affirm her title over PBP as she always maintainted the the Temenggong and the Sultan of Johor had given permission to Great Britain in 1844 for the building and operation of a lighthouse ‘near Point Romania'(Tanjung Penyusoh) or any spot deemed eligible. PBP was selected as the site. Great Britain and then Singapore had operated the lighthouse ever since. Malaysia’s agent Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad said that it becomes a great deal however when Singapore claims sovereignty over PBP simply because it has been running a lighthouse on it with Malaysia’s consent. On Singapore’s arguments is that PBP was ‘terranullius’ on 1847 or no man’s island and that it was in possession of the island without the consent of any native ruler. Singapore also said that Malaysia relied on indirect indeferences from letters which did not mention PBP. Furthermore the island republic submitted that the British acquired sovereignty over PBP because it had the intention to undeertake sovereign acts.

However the arguments are, the dispute over Pedra Branca or best known as Pulau Batu Puteh and its marine adjacent features will be decided through a secret ballot by the judges at the International Court of Justice(ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands. For Malaysians, the outcome will be telecast ‘live’ from the Hague on Friday through RTM1 starting at 4pm. With all that has happened through the years Singapore is lacking on land to support its ever growing population and lets face it, the island republic needs PBP to widen its maritime region. All that can be said here is, Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks, South Ledge or all three, let the best man win or should it be, country, in this matter.

cherio! 🙂

PS: Don’t forget, RTM1 at 4pm Malaysian Time and on Channel News Asia

Source: The News Straits Times, 22 May, 2008

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