Malaysia accepts ruling on Pedra Branca, says Mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a keynote speech on June 25, 2019, that Malaysia accepts the International Court of Justice's 2008 ruling which awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore. PHOTOS: AFP, ST FILE

Malaysia accepts the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) 2008 ruling which awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (June 25), as he cited the case to show how Asean member states can cooperate despite not seeing eye to eye on every issue.

Delivering the keynote speech at the 33rd Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur, he said that while Malaysia still feels strongly about Pulau Batu Puteh - the Malay name for Pedra Branca - it has accepted the ICJ's decision.

"Member states do not need to agree on everything to work well together," Tun Dr Mahathir said in a report in the Malay Mail. "What counts is that we share basic principles of mutual respect, cooperation, sovereign equality and common regional prosperity and well-being.

"When there is a dispute, we go to the table and discuss and negotiate. If we fail we resort to arbitration or go to the International Court of Justice. We abide by the decisions.

"Malaysia won in our overlapping claims of territory with Indonesia but lost in another with Singapore. All parties accepted the decision though we still feel strongly about our rights to the disputed territory that we lost."

The ICJ had ruled in favour of Malaysia in 2002 during a territorial dispute with Indonesia over the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan in the Celebes Sea.

Dr Mahathir's latest comments were a reiteration of remarks he made at the Nikkei Future of Asia conference in May, in which he said Malaysia had acceded to the ICJ's decision that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.

The dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over the island was resolved in 2008 when the ICJ awarded its sovereignty to Singapore.

Malaysia first staked a claim to Pedra Branca, located about 40km off eastern Singapore, in December 1979, when it published a new map of its territorial waters and continental shelf boundaries.

Singapore protested against the map in February 1980.

The issue, along with the dispute over the sovereignty of neighbouring maritime features Middle Rocks and South Ledge, was brought to the ICJ in 2003.

The ICJ in its May 2008 ruling 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.

Malaysia filed an application to revise that judgment on Feb 2, 2017, citing new evidence, and a second application asking the ICJ to interpret that same judgment on June 30, 2017.

However, the new Malaysian government formed after the country's general election in 2018 informed the ICJ on May 28 that year that it had decided to discontinue the proceedings.

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