Malaysia to study options over ruling in Pedra Branca case

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will study its options with regard to the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) 2008 decision to award Pedra Branca to Singapore, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday.

The move comes more than three years after an application to review the ruling was abandoned by the Malaysian government.

Datuk Seri Ismail said in a statement that the Cabinet had agreed on Friday to form separate special panels and give them six months to look into three longstanding controversies, including Kuala Lumpur's claim of what it calls "Pulau Batu Puteh" that first sparked a dispute over four decades ago.

He said a special task force would "propose suitable options by obtaining views from international legal experts" on laws regarding a "request to review and interpret the Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh case". The team will be led by Tan Sri Apandi Ali, who was attorney-general when the Najib Razak administration applied in 2017 for a review of the ICJ's decision.

The request was withdrawn weeks after Najib was defeated in the May 2018 election. With ICJ statutes allowing applications for revisions only within 10 years of a judgment, the matter appeared to have been put to rest when in 2019 then-Premier Mahathir Mohamad reiterated Malaysia's acceptance of the ruling.

Mr Ismail added yesterday that "the Cabinet has also decided to obtain preliminary legal views on legal action under the 'Tort of Misfeasance' against any party to have been negligent or erred in not continuing the review and interpretation" of the 2008 judgment.

The question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca, along with two neighbouring maritime features, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, was brought to the ICJ in 2003. In May 2008, the ICJ awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore, Middle Rocks to Malaysia, and said South Ledge, a rock formation visible only at low tide, belongs to whoever owns the territorial waters it sits in. Both sides have begun negotiations on delimiting the maritime boundaries around Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Aside from the Pedra Branca issue, the Malaysian Cabinet on Friday also agreed to form special teams tasked with looking into the death of a 24-year-old fireman following a racially tinged riot at a Hindu temple just outside Kuala Lumpur in 2018, as well as claims, including those about the judiciary, made in a book by former attorney-general Tommy Thomas.

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 10, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia to study options over ruling in Pedra Branca case'. Subscribe