Trespassing trial

Arrest location used as defence for boat captain

Fishing boat captain Ricky Tan Poh Hui, who is on trial for trespassing in Indonesia, was stopped by a navy patrol last August in waters that border Singapore and Malaysia.

Therefore, there was no need for him to report his position to the Indonesian authorities, argued defence lawyer Purwanto at Tan's hearing in the Tanjung Pinang District Court yesterday.

Mr Purwanto said the defence will present evidence at a later date to prove that the Malaysia- flagged Seven Seas Conqueress charter boat helmed by Tan was heading towards "Batu Puteh" instead of Indonesia. Pulau Batu Puteh is the name Malaysia uses for Pedra Branca, an island located about 40km from the east coast of Singapore. Last month, Malaysia filed an application to overturn a 2008 judgment awarding Pedra Branca to the Republic.

Tan was arrested by the Indonesian navy on Aug 20 last year in waters off Bintan island, according to prosecutors.

Mr Marwan Wardhana, an official from the Directorate-General of Immigration, yesterday testified that Tan had failed to report to the local immigration authorities when he entered Indonesian waters, even though he knew he was required to do so based on his past visits. But Mr Purwanto argued that Tan was in the waters of Singapore and Malaysia and, therefore, under the jurisdictions of the two countries instead.

He added that the engine of the Seven Seas Conqueress had also stalled and, if the vessel had drifted into Indonesian waters momentarily due to the breakdown, force majeure - which refers to an unexpected or uncontrollable occurrence - should apply and Tan would not have committed any offence.

Yesterday was Tan's second appearance before the judges after he was charged in court last Wednesday - seven months after he was arrested.

His three-member crew and nine passengers were released 12 days after their boat was detained, but the 45-year-old captain has remained in the navy's custody since August last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Arrest location used as defence for boat captain'. Print Edition | Subscribe