- 2007/10/30 Malaysia and Singapore submit islands dispute to court

A 28-year disagreement between Singapore and Malaysia over an island and two outcrops in the Singapore Strait will be decided by the International Court of Justice in proceedings that start in the Netherlands next week.

Both countries, which will meet in The Hague where the 15-member tribunal is located, agree to heed by the court's decision. It follows three rounds of pleadings between the two countries from March 2004 to November 2005.

"If they have to be resolved, go according to the law and the treaties because that's non-contentious and both sides can accept it, and it doesn't lead to any loss of face or commitment," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told visiting Asean journalists last August.

The city-state has exercised sovereignty over the island since the 1840s when the British colonial government built a lighthouse there.

Pedra Branca, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) east of Singapore, has been under Singapore since the British built a lighthouse there in the 1840s. Malaysia claimed the island in 1979 and calls it Pulau Batu Putih, the Bangkok Post reported.

Both countries agreed in 2003 to submit the dispute to the international body.

This time Singapore will have four days starting Nov. 6 to present its case. Malaysia will have its turn from Nov. 13 to 16, the DPA news agency reported.

The 772-square-miles Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Puteh (both meaning "white rock" in Portuguese and Malay, respectively) is an outcrop of rocks situated where the Singapore Strait, specifically Straits of Johor, meets the South China Sea.

The rocks sit at the eastern entrance and has long been a navigational hazard. At least 25 vessels sank on the rocks between 1824 and 1851. Between 2000 and 2004 there were two reports of ship collisions.

In 1583, the Dutch voyager Johann van Linschoten first recorded the islands which get their name from years of accumulated bird droppings which hardened upon the rocks.

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