Book on land reclamation dispute between Singapore and Malaysia launched

A new book, on Singapore's first time before an international tribunal, was launched on Monday evening by Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam.

The 128-page volume, Malaysia & Singapore: The Land Reclamation Case - From Dispute To Settlement, details the dispute over Singapore's reclamation projects at Tuas, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, which Malaysia complained were damaging the environment, affecting fishermen's livelihoods and causing navigation difficulties.

In 2003, Malaysia took Singapore before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) in an attempt to halt reclamation work that had gone on since 2000.

The dispute raised the larger issue of conflicting legal rights - Singapore's right to reclaim part of its territorial sea for national needs, and Malaysia's concern to protect its maritime environment from harm; it was resolved when a group of international experts showed the reclamation was not causing major environmental damage.

At the time, the three authors - Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, Ministry of National Development Deputy Secretary Dr Cheong Koon Hean, and Supreme Court Judicial Commissioner Lionel Yee - were key members of the Singapore team tasked with presenting the case.

"There are certain memories in the life of a nation that should be kept alive for posterity," wrote former Attorney General of Singapore Chan Sek Keong, who served at the time of the case, in a foreword. "This is one of them."