MFA: Singapore studying closely KL's application over Pedra Branca

In its 2008 judgment, the International Court of Justice found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore.
In its 2008 judgment, the International Court of Justice found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Republic's legal team includes senior lawyers well acquainted with the issue

Singapore's legal team is closely studying Malaysia's application and documentation for a revision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment on sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said yesterday.

The team includes senior lawyers well acquainted with the issue. It includes Attorney-General Lucien Wong, former deputy prime minister and law minister S. Jayakumar, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.

Professor Jayakumar, Professor Koh and Mr Chan were leading figures in the team that represented Singapore when Singapore and Malaysia referred the dispute over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to the ICJ in 2003. Both countries made their respective cases at a three-week-long hearing in 2007 before judges of the ICJ in The Hague, the Netherlands.

In its 2008 judgment, the ICJ found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia and sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located.

The three features in the Singapore Strait are located some 40km east of the Republic's main island.

Yesterday, the MFA spokesman noted of the ICJ's ruling: "Its judgment was final, binding and without appeal."

He added: "Under Article 61 of the Statute of the ICJ, an application for revision of a judgment may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, and which was, when judgment was given, unknown to the court and the party claiming revision. Such an application must be made within 10 years of the date of the judgment, and at latest within six months of the discovery of the new fact.

  • TIMELINE

  • 1979

    Dec 21: Malaysia publishes a new map of its territorial waters and continental shelf, including Pedra Branca in its territory.

    1980

    Feb 14: Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a diplomatic note rejecting Malaysia's new claim.

    1981

    Dec 17: Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad agree to resolve the ownership of Pedra Branca through the exchange of documents.

    1994

    Sept 6: Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Dr Mahathir agree to submit the Pedra Branca case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Officials meet nine months later.

    2003

    Feb 6: Singapore and Malaysia sign a pact to refer the Pedra Branca dispute to the ICJ.

    2004

    March 25: Singapore and Malaysia submit their first set of written arguments on the Pedra Branca dispute to the ICJ.

    2007

    Nov 6-23: A three-week hearing before 16 judges of the ICJ in The Hague begins. Singapore and Malaysia put up their cases.

    2008

    May 23: The ICJ delivers its ruling, awarding Pedra Branca to Singapore, Middle Rocks to Malaysia, and South Ledge to the state in whose territorial waters it is located. Both sides have since met regularly to discuss the implementation of the ICJ judgment.

"Malaysia has informed us that it has made an application for revision of the ICJ's judgment."

Malaysia filed its application to revise the judgment on Thursday. Its Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said in a statement that the application was made "upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the court and also to Malaysia as the party claiming revision".

He added: "We are also confident that the requirements as stipulated under Article 61 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice have been met in that... the application for revision is brought within six months of the discovery of the new fact, and within 10 years of the date of the judgment."

He did not elaborate on what the new discovery entailed.

But Mr Apandi noted that Malaysia's application for a revision of the judgment is "a continuation of the process" both countries embarked on when they agreed to submit the dispute on sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to the ICJ.

He added: "The discovery of the new facts is important, and they should be ventilated in a court of law accordingly. Thus, as agreed by both parties in the Special Agreement, the ICJ is the appropriate forum for this."

The ICJ comprises 15 judges, who are elected to nine-year terms by the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

Singapore will submit its observations to the ICJ after studying Malaysia's application.

At the same time, the ICJ will begin deciding on the admissibility of the application - that is, whether the facts submitted were presented within six months of being discovered, as well as whether they are decisive.

The Straits Times understands that this process alone may take more than a year to complete.

If the court decides that the criteria are met, the case will go on to the next stage of proceedings.

Representatives of both countries may also have to appear before the ICJ to argue their case.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'MFA: S'pore studying closely KL's application over Pedra Branca'. Print Edition | Subscribe