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Wednesday, 23 July 2008
PITA POLITIK (61): THE PEDRA BRANCA SECOND PHASE
Position of Pedra Branca (New Straits Times)
The verdict of Batu Puteh Case as reported by The Star. 2008/07/23
Singapore claims waters around Pedra Branca By : From Sajahan Abdul Waheed in Singapore
SINGAPORE wants to claim a territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Pedra Branca -- going back on its word to discuss with Malaysia territorial issues and activities around the rocky outcrop.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim did not hide his disappointment with the announcement by Singapore's Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan that the republic had a territorial sea limit that extended up to a maximum of 12 nautical miles and an EEZ, claiming that this was consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Singapore was a party.
Rais said: "Malaysia will have to study if the matter is intimi-dating.
"This thing is new to us. We have a joint technical committee with Singapore and this matter should have been discussed first.
"It should not be done unilaterally. It should take into account the spirit of Asean solidarity and understanding.
"It is not a simple matter as it involves the Law of the Sea and specific issues and we need expert views on this," Rais, who is attending the 41st Asean Ministerial Meeting here, said in an immediate response to Malaysian media.
Pedra Branca was awarded to the republic by the International Court of Justice in May. However, the court awarded Middle Rocks to Malaysia, with ownership of the third marine feature in the area -- South Ledge -- to be decided based on the territorial waters of which it is located.
Following the court's decision, a joint committee was set up to carry out consultations on activities in the locality of the three marine features. The committee is jointly headed by Malaysia's Foreign Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Rastam Mohamed Isa and his Singaporean counterpart.
It is believed that the committee will also have to agree on whether the three features are merely rocks or islands. This is because an island, defined as being able to support habitation and sustain economic life, can claim its own territorial seas and EEZ, whereas other marine features can only claim territorial sea.
Sadasivan, when replying to questions in Parliament, said that the precise coordinates of Singapore's territorial sea and EEZ would be announced at an appropriate time.
Sadasivan said should the limit of its territorial sea or EEZ overlap with the claims of neighbouring countries, Singapore would negotiate with those countries with a view to arriving at an agreed delimitation.
Malaysia had asserted that it would continue to look for further evidence on the Pedra Branca case with a view to seeking a revision of the judgment of the ICJ.
In reference to this, Balaji said under ICJ's statute, a party could apply for a review of a judgment if "it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence". (NST Online)
As expected Singapore has started it again. Imagine the territorial rights of Singapore's Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca extending the 12-mile sea limit and subsequently its right to reclamation. This will also mean that the Singapore border westward would be shifted closer to the Malaysian shore. What would happen then if the reclamation is meant to be none other than a non-civilian presence. When it comes to EEZ, one would wonder when Singapore will start its first offshore oil drilling, and so closed to Pengerang, on the Malaysian side.
Analysts are of the opinion that the second phase of the Batu Puteh conflict has just begun. And yet Malaysia is too preoccupied with maintaining the so-called "spirit of ASEAN solidarity and undertanding." Malaysia must and should understand when it comes to sovereignty and country's individual rights, nothing is more important than a sense of patriotiam and self-preservation. That is just what Singapore is doing.
How about getting somebody with historical background expertise, roaming the world to get the hard evidence in some forms or otherwise to reexamine and reopen the Pedra Branca Case. And give all the necessary resources to do it, no matter what it takes and how much it costs.