- 2007/11/12 Malaysia's turn to present oral arguments tuesday

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hear Malaysia's oral arguments on the dispute over the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh, the Middle Rocks and South Ledge, on Tuesday.

On Friday, Singapore completed the first round of its four-day oral arguments. Malaysia has also been given four days for the first round of its oral presentation.

Malaysia's head of delegation Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, who is Malaysia's agent for the case, will present the opening statement before the court. Abdul Kadir is Ambassador at Large and also the Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs.

Co-agent Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, the Malaysian ambassador to the Netherlands and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail will also make oral submissions on Tuesday.

The court is scheduled to sit at 10am (5pm Malaysian time).

Malaysia is requesting the ICJ to adjudge and declare that sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh and the two marine features belong to Malaysia. In its memorial submitted to the court, among other things Malaysia said that Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, and other islands in and around the Singapore Strait were part of the Sultanate of Johor before 1824.

This was unaffected by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which concerned only islands and territories to the south of the strait, it said in the memorial.

Malaysia said in its written pleadings its sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge are also based on the fact that neither Britain nor Singapore ever claimed sovereignty over the three features at any time prior to the critical dates in relation to the present dispute (1980 in the case of Pulau Batu Puteh, 1993 in the case of the other two features).

On the other hand, it said Singapore's legislation and treaty practice, its publications and maps as well as statements by knowledgeable Singapore officials all confirmed that the three features were not territories of Singapore, and were not administered as part of the territory of Singapore.

Singapore, in its memorial, claimed that the title to Pedra Branca (Singapore's name for Pulau Batu Puteh) already vested in the British Crown and subsequently in Singapore as the result of official actions that took place on the island in the period 1847-1851. It contended that during this period, the British Crown acquired the title to Pulau Batu Puteh when it took lawful possession of the island and completed the erection of the Horsburgh Lighthouse.

Also on Friday, the final day of Singapore's first round of oral arguments, the republic had dwelt at length on a 1953 letter sent by the acting Johor state secretary then, which it claimed expressed disclaimer of title to Pulau Batu Puteh.

Singapore argued that the letter written on Sept 21, 1953 to Singapore's Colonial Secretary stating that "the Johor Government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca", constituted clear evidence that Johor never had the title to the island and its officials never regarded Pulau Batu Puteh as belonging to Johor.

The letter was in response to an enquiry dated June 12, 1953 made on behalf of the Singapore Colonial Secretary seeking to clarify the status of Pulau Batu Puteh where a lighthouse had been built with a view to determine the "boundaries of the Colony's territorial waters."

Singapore's deputy prime minister S Jayakumar, who summed up the case, also argued among other things that the island, which was an uninhibited island and had never been the subject of any prior claims or acts of ownership by any sovereign entity, was terra nullius (no man's land).

He refuted Malaysia's claim that the island was not terra nullius but was used by the local Malay population, who were subjects of Johor, for fishing and other purposes.

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