Malaysia and S’pore agree to sign pact over island next month


BY MERGAWATI ZULFAKAR and SHAHANAAZ HABIB

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and Singapore will sign next month the special agreement to refer the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute to the International Court of Justice. 

 

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the signing would be done either in Malaysia or Singapore. 

“I have given three dates and Singapore has agreed to all the dates. I have chosen one of the dates for the signing. By tomorrow or the next day, we should be able to let you know,” he told reporters after meeting his Irish counterpart, Brian Cowen. 

 

It is understood that the two sides had proposed several dates and a date suggested by Singapore was not acceptable to Kuala Lumpur because Syed Hamid would be overseas for 11 days from Saturday. 

Singapore Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar had earlier proposed that the agreement be signed on the sidelines of the Asean-European Union Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussls next month but it was rejected by Malaysia. 

The island dispute arose in 1979 and Malaysia and Singapore agreed in 1998 on the signing of the terms of reference for the special agreement. 

Syed Hamid said the question of when the agreement would be signed should not become a polemic as both parties had agreed that the overlapping claims be referred to the ICJ. 

“Once we refer it to the ICJ, that means the status quo remains. Status quo means no country can claim exclusive sovereignty over the disputed island until it is resolved by the ICJ,” he said. 

In KUALA LUMPUR, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described the latest developments as “progress.”  

Speaking to reporters after chairing an Umno management committee meeting, he said that this would mean that at least one problem in the bilateral relations between the two countries could be resolved. 

“We do not want the island to become a cause of tension,” he said. 

He said incidents such as Singapore authorities chasing away Malaysian marine boats should no longer happen. 

“And it is better if both sides understand that the ownership of the island is still unresolved,” he said.  

He believed that both countries would accept whatever decision the ICJ made. 

“We are all sensible people. When a decision is made, we will accept it as in the case of Indonesia accepting the decision on Sipadan (and Ligitan). We have a very matured approach to solving bilateral issues on overlapping claims,” he said. 

Abdullah said Malaysia had done a lot of preparation and dug up on the history of Pulau Batu Puteh but expected Singapore to do the same.  

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