KL hopes to find documents backing its Pedra Branca claim

Malaysian officials going through declassified papers in London

KUALA LUMPUR • Five researchers from Malaysia's Attorney-General's Chambers are in London, sifting through 30,000 declassified British documents, as Kuala Lumpur attempts to find evidence for its legal challenge that Pedra Branca belongs to the country and not Singapore, The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site said yesterday.

The Far East documents were declassified by the British government in 2013, five years after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca, the report quoted Malaysian Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali as saying.

"The British declassified the documents in 2013, five years after the ICJ ruling. I realised there may be some documents which could be relevant to our claim," he told TMI.

Malaysia in February filed an application to overturn the ICJ's 2008 judgment awarding Pedra Branca to Singapore.

Singapore has appointed a legal team on the case that includes senior lawyers well acquainted with the issue.

Kuala Lumpur cited three "new facts" to argue that "Singapore's officials at the highest levels did not consider that Singapore had acquired sovereignty over Pedra Branca from Johor".

It said it based its application on Article 61 of the ICJ's Statute, which provides that an "application for revision of a judgment may be made when it is based only upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor".

The fact had to be unknown to the court and also to the party claiming revision when the judgment was given.

The request for revision must also be made within six months of discovery of the new fact - in this case, Aug 4 last year.

Tan Sri Apandi, who was appointed in July 2015 after the previous attorney-general was sacked in a controversial move by Prime Minister Najib Razak, said he initially sent two researchers to start digging at the British National Archives in July last year.

The documents were on Far East affairs - anything to do with India, Malaya, Singapore and the other British colonies in the region.

Mr Apandi said: "People then asked me why I was reacting only in 2016 when the documents were declassified in 2013. It was because I was busy getting my position stabilised (as attorney-general).

"So I sent my two researchers and they did their work. By Aug 3, they discovered the first three documents which are in our favour and could overturn the earlier decision."

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said last month that the Republic strongly believes the documents relied on by Malaysia in its bid to overturn the judgment do not satisfy the criteria under which it applied for a revision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'KL hopes to find documents backing its Pedra Branca claim'. Print Edition | Subscribe