Dr M claims being shut out of Batu Puteh RCI proceedings

PETALING JAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad claims he was shut out of a supposed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) proceedings concerning the sovereignty of Batu Puteh, Batuan Tengah and Tubir Selatan.

Claiming that the RCI was held confidentially, the former prime minister said that when his lawyer learned of the proceedings on Tuesday (May 21), they had attempted to attend the meeting and present several applications and objections.

“However, all our applications and objections were rejected and the RCI proceeding went on in a closed-door manner,” Dr Mahathir said in a statement on Tuesday.

Dr Mahathir also refuted accusations that he made the decision not to continue appealing the International Court of Justice (IJC) decision on the matter without consulting others.

“This is not true, and as far as I can remember, I made the decision after referring to the Attorney General’s Chambers and sought insights from learned lawyers.

“I had also presented the matter to the then Cabinet, and we collectively agreed not to continue pursuing the appeal,” he said, naming Pakatan Harapan leaders Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anthony Loke, Gobind Singh Deo and Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu who were Cabinet members during the first Pakatan administration.

Dr Mahathir also questioned how he could explain or defend himself if neither his lawyer nor himself were allowed to be present throughout the RCI proceedings.

“The closed-door proceedings were held today without informing any quarters,” he claimed.

Aside from requesting for his or his lawyer’s right to attend the RCI proceedings, Dr Mahathir said his lawyer also requested an application to recuse RCI chairman Tun Md Raus Sharif and fellow commissioners Datuk Dr Baljit Singh Sidhu and Datuk Mohammed Ridha Abdul Kadir from the RCI, due to “conflicts”.

“There are more applications that I will specify in detail, in the coming days,” he added.

On Feb 14, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, King of Malaysia consented to the setting up of the RCI.

The RCI comes after the loss of Batu Puteh to Singapore following a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in May 2008, and the subsequent decision by the government in 2018 to withdraw a review application of the court’s decision before it was heard in June that year.

The dispute over Batu Puteh and the nearby rock outcrop between the two countries started in 1979 and was referred to the ICJ in 2008.

The court ruled that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore while Batuan Tengah belongs to Malaysia, with the sovereignty of Tubir Selatan remaining unclear.

On Feb 3, 2017, the Malaysian Government filed an application for a revision of the ICJ’s ruling in awarding legal jurisdiction of Batu Puteh to Singapore in June of the following year.

However, the then Pakatan administration under Dr Mahathir withdrew the application before its scheduled hearing on June 11, 2018.

This led to an outcry from several quarters, and in 2021, Sultan Ibrahim, as Johor Sultan, demanded a clear explanation of why the Federal Government had dropped the review application.

His Majesty said that not pursuing the case was as good as admitting defeat even before going into the legal battle in the ICJ.

In November 2021, the Cabinet agreed to set up a special task force to look into the reason behind the decision by the previous government to drop the application to review the Batu Puteh case.

In December 2022, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim called for the claim on Batu Puteh to be reviewed through immediate and more “meaningful” negotiations with Singapore, without jeopardising bilateral relations.

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