Ex-PM Mahathir says Malaysia should demand that Singapore and Riau Islands be given back as they are 'Tanah Melayu'

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking at an event in Selangor on June 19, 2022.
PHOTO: Screengrab/YouTube/Astro Awani

KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that Singapore was once owned by Johor and the state of Johor should claim that Singapore be returned to it and to Malaysia.

"However, there is no demand whatsoever of Singapore. Instead, we show our appreciation to the leadership of this new country called Singapore," he added during a speech on Sunday (June 19).

Tun Dr Mahathir also said the Malaysian government deemed it more valuable that they won control over the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan off Borneo against Indonesia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), while giving up a piece of rock "the size of a table" - Pedra Branca - to Singapore.

"We should demand not just that Pedra Branca, or Pulau Batu Puteh, be given back to us, we should also demand Singapore as well as the Riau Islands, as they are Tanah Melayu (Malay land)," he added to applause from the audience.

The 96-year-old former premier, known for his controversial remarks, was speaking on Sunday at an event in Selangor organised by several non-governmental organisations under the banner Kongres Survival Melayu (Congress for Malay Survival) and titled Aku Melayu: Survival Bermula (I am Malay: Survival Begins).

In his opening speech, which was live-streamed on social media, Dr Mahathir, who is MP for Langkawi, said that what was known as Tanah Melayu used to be extensive, stretching from the Isthmus of Kra in southern Thailand all the way to the Riau Islands, and Singapore, but is now confined to the Malay Peninsula.

"I wonder whether the Malay Peninsula will belong to someone else in the future," he said.

ALSO READ: Netizens weigh in on preacher who said Singapore belongs to Riau

He also said Malaysia today is not owned by bumiputera, because many Malays remain poor and they tend to sell their land.

Urging his audience to learn from the past, he said: "If we find we were wrong, we should rectify these wrongs so that our land remains Malay land."

The ICJ had in 2002 ruled that Sipadan and Ligitan belonged to Malaysia and not Indonesia.

In 2008, the ICJ ruled that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, while sovereignty over nearby Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia.

In 2017, Malaysia applied to the ICJ to revise this judgment. But in May 2018, after Dr Mahathir became prime minister again, Malaysia announced that it would discontinue the proceedings.

ALSO READ: Mahathir vs Najib: New memoirs lift lid on power struggles in Malaysia

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.