Sultan of Johor seeks to reopen Pedra Branca case

Sultan of Johor seeks to reopen Pedra Branca case
Pedra Branca, referred to as Pulau Batu Puteh by Malaysia.

The Sultan of Johor has ordered the state government to look into filing an appeal against the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision six years ago to award Pedra Branca to Singapore.

Pedra Branca - which Malaysia refers to as Pulau Batu Puteh - belonged to Johor and should remain a part of it, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail was quoted by the online portals of Malay-language dailies Utusan Malaysia and Sinar Harian as saying yesterday.

He said he was following the wishes of his father, the late Sultan Iskandar Ismail.

Sultan Ibrahim, who was speaking at the opening of the state legislative assembly session, noted that while foreign affairs came under the jurisdiction of the federal government, it was unwise for Johor not to be consulted on the matter.

"Don't the Johor people understand their neighbours better than those in Putrajaya? How would the federal government know of the state's needs or that of its people?" he said.

Pedra Branca, an island the size of a football field located some 40km east of Singapore and home to Horsburgh Lighthouse, was at the centre of a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia that lasted almost three decades.

In 2003, the two countries signed a Special Agreement referring the dispute to the ICJ at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

For three weeks in 2007, legal teams from both sides argued their case before the court. In a ruling that it said was "final, binding and without appeal" in May 2008, the ICJ awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore and outcrops called Middle Rocks to Malaysia.

Of Sultan Ibrahim's order to appeal against the ruling, Dr Azmi Sharom of Universiti Malaya told The Straits Times that he does not have the authority.

"The ICJ has jurisdiction over disputes presented only by nations or governments. He may request it (an appeal), but it is the government that presents the case to the ICJ."

This article was first published on May 30, 2014.
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