The "loss" of Pedra Branca to Singapore became a topic of debate in Parliament yesterday as several MPs expressed unhappiness at the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The debate was led by several Johor Members of Parliament, as well as opposition leaders.
The vocal Datuk Puad Zarkashi, an Umno MP from Johor, said Malaysia lost because it failed to archive its historical documents properly.
He lambasted the government for failing to locate a crucial letter from the British colonial government seeking the Johor sultan's permission to build a lighthouse on the island which he described as a key piece of evidence.
"As a Johorean, I am disappointed. We lost, simple as that. I don't believe in the win-win situation as claimed by the government," he said.
The debate in Parliament came after a weekend of measured response from politicians and the media, and is an indication that the loss of the island could become a political hot potato.
The MPs had been briefed in advance of the ICJ verdict last Friday as the government attempted to moderate the response to the decision, but strong sentiments are beginning to surface.
The opposition has also jumped onto the bandwagon to blame the government for its poor handling of the case.
The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in Johor yesterday lodged a police report against former foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar for having been "careless" in the handling of the case.
"They did not do anything against Singapore when it constructed buildings and a light house on the island," Johor PAS information chief Mazlan Alimin said.
The party is also planning to table a motion in Parliament today to debate the matter.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim wrote in his blog yesterday that the ICJ decision was a bitter pill, and attacked the Malaysian government for its weak case.
"Malaysians should express their anger and regret at the carelessness, and protest to the Umno and BN-led government, and Attorney-General," he said.
His wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, an MP from Penang, said in Parliament that Malaysians were saddened by the decision, against which there was no appeal.
Mr Mahfuz Omar, a PAS MP from Kedah, blamed the Attorney-General for failing to advise the government adequately.
Independent MP Ibrahim Ali urged the government to be wary of Singapore, pointing out that the Republic has a water treatment plant in Pulai which was manned by its personnel.
"I have been made to understand that it is big, and if it was to overflow, half of Johor will be flooded," he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysian analyst Datuk Dr Cheah See Kian was quoted in the Nanyang Siang Pau yesterday as saying that the ICJ decision could have military and strategic significance for Singapore.
He said Pedra Branca was a strategic spot from the military point of view, and that it could even be used as a new naval base.
"Although we are not certain whether there are oil fields around Pedra Branca, Singapore has achieved a historical breakthrough with the verdict," he said.
"As a Johorean, I am disappointed. We lost, simple as that. I don?t believe in the win-win situation as claimed by the government."
Datuk Puad Zarkashi, an Umno MP from Johor, said Malaysia lost because it failed to archive its historical documents properly.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on 27 May 2008.