Monday, 3 July 2017

Malaysia's fresh challenge dtd 30 June 2017 on Pedra Branca 'without merit': Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Singapore files extensive rebuttal to KL's request

Malaysia applies to ICJ to interpret 2008 ruling; Singapore says it will oppose application
By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 2 Jul 2017

Malaysia has filed an application at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to declare that the waters surrounding Pedra Branca are within its territorial waters.

In response, Singapore says the move is puzzling, without merit, and one it will oppose.

The bid, filed on Friday, calls on the court to clarify its 2008 judgment which awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore, and neighbouring Middle Rocks to Malaysia.

The ICJ also found nearby South Ledge belongs to the country in whose territorial waters it is sited.

News of the latest Malaysian bid broke yesterday which, ironically, was the day Singapore was marking 50 years of national service, set up to boost the Republic's security.

In its application, Malaysia also asked the court to declare that South Ledge is in Malaysia's territorial waters and therefore belongs to it, the ICJ said in a press statement.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday: "In our view, the ICJ judgment is clear and unambiguous. Malaysia's request for the ICJ to interpret the judgment is puzzling. Singapore will therefore oppose Malaysia's application for interpretation, which we consider to be both unnecessary and without merit."

Malaysia's fresh challenge comes months after it filed a separate bid to revise the 2008 ruling in February, citing newly discovered facts.

Both countries had taken the dispute over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to the ICJ in The Hague.

All three features in the Singapore Strait are about 40km east of Singapore's main island.

The court delivered its ruling in 2008. MFA said the ICJ "also noted it had not been mandated to draw the line of delimitation with respect to the territorial waters of Malaysia and Singapore in the area".

The two countries set up a Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee (MSJTC) to implement the ruling, and it was tasked with delimiting maritime boundaries between the territorial waters of both.

But according to Malaysia, the MSJTC reached an impasse in November 2013.

Malaysia claims that both sides have been unable to agree on what two points of the ruling mean: that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore, and that sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.

Malaysia argues this "ongoing uncertainty" as to who is sovereign over the disputed areas "continues to complicate the task of ensuring orderly and peaceful relations", the ICJ said. Malaysia says "the need to achieve a viable solution to the dispute is pressing", considering the "high volume of aerial and maritime traffic in the area", the ICJ added.

But MFA said the ICJ judgment was final and without appeal. "Singapore and Malaysia had agreed to honour and abide by the judgment and had established the MSJTC," it said.

Malaysia's fresh application "is additional to, and separate from" its February bid to revise the 2008 judgment, MFA said. Singapore filed its written observations in response to that with the ICJ in May.

A revision application seeks to revise or alter a judgment based on purported newly discovered facts, while an interpretation application seeks to clarify a judgment.

Dr Mustafa Izzuddin of the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute sees Malaysia's bid as a "calculated strategic attempt" to show to voters ahead of upcoming elections that the government is defending the national interest. He adds that it "is unlikely to stand up to scrutiny".

MFA said Singapore will file its written observations on the interpretation application in due course.

"Just as we are confident of our case on the revision application, we are also confident that we are on strong grounds to oppose this latest application by Malaysia for interpretation. Singapore is committed to resolving these issues in accordance with international law," it added.







































* Pedra Branca ruling: Singapore files extensive rebuttal to KL's request on 30 October 2017

Malaysia wants ICJ to declare waters around maritime feature to be its territorial waters
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Nov 2017

Singapore filed a "comprehensive rebuttal" on Monday to Malaysia's request that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declare the waters surrounding Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters.


"Singapore is confident of its case and its legal team," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement. The next step in the case is for the two sides to present oral arguments to the ICJ, on dates yet to be fixed.


Malaysia's application, made in June this year, concerned the court's 2008 ruling that said: First, Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore; second, Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia; and third, South Ledge belongs "to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located".


After the 2008 ruling, the two countries formed a joint technical committee to implement the ruling. However, according to Malaysia, this committee reached an impasse in 2013, because it could not agree on what the ruling meant on South Ledge. Malaysia said in its application that this "ongoing uncertainty... continues to complicate the task of ensuring orderly and peaceful relations".


It therefore decided to submit the application asking the court to declare the waters around Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters - and, by extension, that South Ledge belongs to Malaysia.


Shortly after the June application by Malaysia, the MFA issued a statement saying Singapore disagreed that the 2008 ICJ ruling needed clarification. It added that "in our view, the ICJ judgment is clear and unambiguous".

"Malaysia's request for the ICJ to interpret the judgment is puzzling. Singapore will therefore oppose Malaysia's application for interpretation, which we consider to be both unnecessary and without merit," the statement said.



Following MFA's latest statement yesterday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that he hoped the ongoing applications on the 2008 ICJ ruling can be "resolved as soon as possible, so that both countries can focus on strengthening our bilateral ties".

He acknowledged the efforts of staff from the MFA, the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Ministry of Law who were involved in preparing the case.

He also thanked former senior minister S. Jayakumar, former chief justice Chan Sek Keong, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, and Attorney-General Lucien Wong.

"Our team has benefited tremendously from their wisdom and insight," wrote Dr Balakrishnan.

In its statement yesterday, the MFA also said that Singapore had chosen Judge Gilbert Guillaume to sit as an ad hoc judge for the upcoming proceedings. Under ICJ rules, each party is allowed to choose an ad hoc judge if there is no judge of that party's nationality on the bench. The Straits Times understands that there is no judge of either Singaporean or Malaysian nationality on the bench, and Malaysia is therefore also entitled to choose an ad hoc judge.

Since the 2008 ICJ ruling, Malaysia has made two separate applications connected to the ruling. Other than the June application to interpret the ruling, there was an application in February this year asking ICJ to revise the ruling.

That earlier application by Malaysia argued that certain documents declassified by the government of the United Kingdom after the 2008 ruling were decisive to the case, and that "the court would have been bound to reach a different conclusion on the question of sovereignty over Pedra Branca had it been aware of this new evidence".

Singapore has also filed a comprehensive rebuttal to the February application, and the case is ongoing.










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