Johor government hopes 'new facts' will aid Malaysia's claim for Pedra Branca

An aerial view of Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca
An aerial view of Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra BrancaPHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

JOHOR BAHRU - The Johor government said on Saturday (Feb 4) it hopes the discovery of "new facts" cited by Malaysia in its application for a revision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) 2008 ruling, which found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, will aid the federal government's claim.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the state government welcomes the efforts made by Malaysia's Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali to reclaim the island, Bernama reported.

"I hope this time we will succeed," he told reporters at an event in Bandar Seri Alam in Johor Baru on Saturday.

In 2008, the ICJ in the Hague, the Netherlands, ruled that Pedra Branca, which is known by Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia, belonged to Singapore.

On Friday (Feb 3), Mr Apandi in a statement said Malaysia had filed an application for a review of the ICJ judgement on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks, and South Ledge after it discovered "new facts".

The ICJ in a press release on Friday said Malaysia had cited three documents recently declassified by the United Kingdom to support its application. They include: internal correspondence of the Singapore colonial authorities in 1958, an incident report filed in 1958 by a British naval officer, and an annotated map of naval operations from the 1960s.

The documents were discovered in the UK National Archives between Aug 4, 2016 and Jan 30, 2017, the ICJ press release added.


"Malaysia claims that these documents establish the new fact that 'officials at the highest levels in the British colonial and Singaporean administration appreciated that Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh did not form part of Singapore's sovereign territory' during the relevant period," it said.

"Malaysia argues that 'that the Court would have been bound to reach a different conclusion on the question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh had it been aware of this new evidence'."

Pedra Branca, some 40km east of Singapore and at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait, is known as Pulau Batu Puteh by Malaysia.

Britain, and later, Singapore, had maintained control over the island since the 1850s. Malaysia staked its claim to the island in a 1979 map.

The dispute saw both neighbours refer the case to the ICJ in 2003.

The Court found on May 23, 2008 that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belongs 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.

A spokesman for Singapore's Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it is studying Malaysia's application and documentation closely, and has formed a legal team to respond to it.