Special task force under Apandi to review Pulau Batu Puteh case

PUTRAJAYA: The Cabinet has agreed to form a special task force to review the actions and legal issues regarding the Pulau Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca), Middle Rocks and South Ledge case.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the task force, which would be led by former attorney general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, would also recommend the best option on the government’s direction for the case.

"This decision is following the government’s commitment to review the laws related to the Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge case after the review and interpretation of the case was discontinued on May 17, 2018, taking into account national interests and cost implications,” he said in a statement on Sunday (Nov 14).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said on Oct 9 a special task force would be set up to conduct a comprehensive study as well as scrutinise and recommend options by seeking the views of international legal experts to review the laws on the matter.

According to Wan Junaidi, the Cabinet’s memorandum regarding the formation of the special task force including the terms of reference, membership and financial implications will be tabled for consideration and approval by the Cabinet in the near future.

The special task force will submit its findings and recommendations to the Cabinet meeting within six months as decided in the meeting on Oct 29, said Wan Junaidi.

On Feb 3, 2017, the Malaysian government filed an application for review of the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on May 23, 2008, which ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh while Malaysia had sovereignty over Terumbu Karang Tengah.

Malaysia filed the application based on three documents declassified by the United Kingdom to support the application.

The documents are the internal correspondence of the Singapore colonial authorities in 1958, an incident report filed in 1958 by a British naval officer, and an annotated map of naval operations from the 1960s.

On Feb 16, 2017, Mohamed Apandi, who was then the attorney general, said he would lead a team of experts to handle the review at the ICJ, The Hague in the Netherlands.

However, in 2018, the Pakatan Harapan government under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad withdrew the application before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11.

On May 28 this year, an individual named Mohd Hatta Sanuri, 45, filed a suit against the prime minister and the government of Malaysia seeking a written explanation regarding the withdrawal of the review application.

According to Wan Junaidi, besides Mohamed Apandi, the special task force would comprise two local lawyers who managed the cases from 2016 to 2017, namely Datuk Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin and Datuk Abu Bakar As-Sidek Mohd Sidek; as well as representatives from the Foreign Ministry, Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), Survey and Mapping Department, and the Johor government.

"The Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department, AGC and Foreign Ministry will act as the secretariat for this special task force,” he said. – Bernama

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