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Saturday May 24, 2008

Decision resolves 28-year-old dispute

PETALING JAYA: The 28-year dispute over the ownership Pulau Batu Puteh is over with the International Court of Justice awarding it to Singapore.

However, the court in The Hague awarded Malaysia the ownership of Middle Rocks, a group of rocks located 0.6 nautical miles (1.1km) south of Pulau Batu Puteh, or Pedra Branca as it is known in Singapore.

The ICJ did not determine the ownership of South Ledge, a smaller group of rocks 2.1 nautical miles (3.8km) south of Pulau Batu Puteh, stating that its sovereignty would depend on whose territorial waters it was located in.

MIDDLE ROCKS: The court ruled near unanimously that this feature, which is about half a nautical mile from Pulau Batu Puteh and 1.7 nautical miles from South Ledge, is under Malaysia's sovereignty. — Singapore Memorial

Case acting president and ICJ vice-president Judge Awn Shawkat AlKhasawneh delivered the decision, which is binding and not subject to appeal.

The 300-page judgment took about two hours to be read. The judgment was telecast live by RTM1.

Twelve of the courts 16 judges ruled in favour of Singapore on the question of the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh.

BATU PUTEH: The International Court of Justice has ruled in a majority decision that this outcrop of rocks, situated where the Singapore Strait meets the South China Sea, belongs to Singapore in a 12-4 decision. — Reuters

As for Middle Rocks, only Singapore’s appointed ad-hoc judge Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao of India dissented from the other judges' decision in favour of Malaysia.

Awn Shawkat, however, said South Ledge was not a clear-cut case as the low-tide elevation falls within the overlapping territorial waters by Pulau Batu Puteh and Middle Rocks and there was no previous mandate for Malaysia or Singapore to draw their delimitation line.

The court held that the dispute over the island crystallised on Feb 14, 1980 when Singapore lodged an official protest over a 1979 Malaysian map which showed the island as under Malaysian territorial waters.

The dispute over Middle Rocks and South Ledge only started in 1993, the court ruled as it was Singapore’s first mention of it in its claim to Pulau Batu Puteh.

South Ledge: The court ruled that this other outcrop belongs to the country whose territorial waters it is located in. This ambiguous ruling is due to the fact that the outcrop lies in overlapping boundaries. — Singapore Memorial

Pulau Batu Puteh, which is 7.7 nautical miles from Malaysia and 25.5 nautical miles from Singapore, has a maximum length of 137m.

It is also the site of the Singapore-operated Horsburgh Lighthouse, which was built in 1851 and marks the eastern entrance to the Straits of Singapore.

Related Stories:
Three reasons why island went to S’pore
Malaysians can now go fishing off Middle Rocks
A sad Abdullah accepts ICJ ruling
Lee pleased with ICJ ruling
Rais: Decision on island is a win-win situation
Expert: Natural resources in territorial waters now Singapore’s

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