Malaysia reconsidering its challenge of ICJ judgment on Pedra Branca: Mahathir

Public hearings for the two cases brought by Malaysia on the sovereignty of the island of Pedra Branca were slated to take place in June 2018 in The Hague.

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia is reconsidering its challenge of a 2008 judgment awarding Pedra Branca to Singapore.

"We are doing some rethinking about that," newly installed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (May 30).

Tun Mahathir, who took office earlier this month after the Pakatan Harapan alliance won a general election, has asked for updates on the previous Barisan Nasional administration's appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Public hearings for the two cases brought by Malaysia on the sovereignty of the island of Pedra Branca were slated to take place next month (June) in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

In the first case, Malaysia wants the ICJ judgment made on May 23, 2008 to be overturned. The court had ruled that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, a decision that resolved a territorial dispute which began in 1979.

Malaysia has also filed a second request, seeking an interpretation of the 2008 judgment.

When asked by reporters, after a Cabinet meeting, if Malaysia would withdraw from pursuing the appeal, Dr Mahathir replied: "We will reconsider that."

Malaysia's latest application to revise the 2008 judgment was filed on Feb 2 last year.

It cited three new documents discovered in the British Archives to argue its point that Singapore's officials at the highest levels did not consider that Singapore had acquired sovereignty over Pedra Branca from Johor in the years following 1953.

The small island of Pedra Branca - also known as Pulau Batu Puteh - houses the Horsburgh Lighthouse, and is located about 40km east of Singapore's main island.

Besides Pedra Branca, the ICJ had also ruled at the same time on the sovereignty over two other maritime features: the Middle Rocks and South Ledge, near Pedra Branca. It said Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia, but it did not make a definitive ruling on South Ledge, saying it belongs to whoever owns the territorial waters it sits in.

Malaysia has also submitted a request asking the ICJ to declare the waters around Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters - and, by extension, that South Ledge belongs to Malaysia.

Singapore has filed rebuttals to all the points raised by Malaysia at the ICJ.

Dr Mahathir noted that Malaysia had already built structures on Middle Rocks, and intends to enlarge it "so that we can form a small island for us".

"That is something we are thinking of," he said, when pressed to clarify Malaysia's plans for Middle Rocks. "We haven't made a full decision yet," he added.

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