English World

Pulau Batu Puteh: M’sia has good case to apply for ICJ revision, says admiral

KUALA TERENGGANU: A retired top admiral is confident that Malaysia is armed with a strong case to apply for a revision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s judgment over Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh), Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Rear-Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam, who played a prominent role in the Malaysian team which argued its case at The Hague, Netherlands, in 2008, believes there is fresh, compelling evidence to support Malaysia’s call for a review.

He said Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali would otherwise not be confident enough to apply for the revision.

“I believe he is armed with some strong, sufficient and substantial (evidence) that is relevant to initiate the revision, based on new facts from declassied documents released by the British government.

“The ICJ will only be willing to hear the matter if there is solid fresh evidence that can be substantiated with documents to affect the earlier court decision,” said Thanabalasingam, who was the country’s first local Royal Malaysian Navy chief in 1967, and is conversant with maritime territorial issues.

Mohamed Apandi had cited the discovery of a new fact recently, which he said is important and should be ventilated in a court of law, to initiate the ICJ revision.

The new fact was discovered in documents that were released to the public by the United Kingdom between Aug last year and Jan.

They include private letters of Singapore’s colonial authorities from 1958, a British Navy incident report from the same year, and an annotated map of naval operations from the 1960s.

Malaysia claims that these documents establish the new fact that officials at the highest levels of the British colonial and Singaporean administration appreciated that Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh) did not form part of Singapore’s sovereign territory during the relevant period.

However, Thanabalasingam cautioned that time is essential in determining if Malaysia’s case warrants a hearing.

“It may become a problem if (it turns out that the) documents were declassied much earlier, and we only found out about its contents recently, to work on it.

“We (could still) apply, but the ICJ will entertain us only if the new evidence is very pertinent for a revision and not any little points to be considered.

“The new evidence must be serious enough to affect the outcome of the earlier decision,” he said, adding that reports indicate that Singapore is ready to face the issue at The Hague.

Thanabalasingam added that he has not been consulted on the matter this time around, but would be happy to assist in any way.

Two years ago, Thanabalasingam had come out in the open to strongly defend Malaysia’s handling of the case, denying any attempt to bribe Malaysian officials to lose the case when the ICJ handed out its judgment on May 23, 2008.

In that judgment, deemed final and binding, the ICJ found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh) belonged to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia, and sovereignty over South Ledge belonged to the state in the territorial waters in which it is located.

However, Article 61 of the statute of the ICJ allows for an application for revision of a judgment if it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, and which was, when judgment was given, unknown to the court and the party claiming revision.

Such an application must be made within 10 years of the date of the judgment and at the latest, within six months of the discovery of the new fact.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to Malaysia’s move by saying it is closely studying Malaysia’s application and documentation, and has set up its legal team to respond to Malaysia’s application.

It was reported that the Singapore team includes its Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor S. Jayakumar, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.-nst

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