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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nov 9, 2007

'Glaring gap' in Malaysia's actions over 2 islands

SINGAPORE yesterday pointed out the discrepancy in Malaysia's behaviour towards two small islands with lighthouses, only one of which is clearly in Malaysian territory.

The two islands in question are Pedra Branca and Pulau Pisang.

Pulau Pisang is located to the west of Singapore, in the Malacca Strait.

The island belongs to Malaysia and Singapore only administers the lighthouse on it.

Pedra Branca is located to the east of Singapore, in the Singapore Strait. It is the subject of a sovereignty dispute between the two countries, now being heard before the International Court of Justice.

Yesterday, Singapore's international law expert Rodman Bundy argued that if Pedra Branca belonged to Malaysia, it was odd that the latter had never protested against the flying of Singapore's marine ensign over the island.

SINGAPORE has told an international court of Malaysia's tactics of distorting quotes and suppressing key historical facts to bolster its claim to Pedra Branca.

In its written pleadings, Malaysia had, for example, cited a visit to the island by the Temenggong or chief of the Johor Sultanate, signifying that he was visiting as a sovereign or owner of the territory.

Malaysia relied on a quote from a report by J.T. Thomson, architect of Horsburgh Lighthouse - which is on the island - and reported the quote thus: that the Temenggong 'came in a beautiful fast-sailing sampan... rigged with graceful latteen sails'. Latteen sails are triangular sail cloths.
But Malaysia had actually truncated the quote using ellipses and 'concealed a detail of the highest importance', Singapore's counsel, Professor Alain Pellet, told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday.

The detail omitted was this: The sampan belonged to the Governor of the Straits Settlements.
Thomson's full quote had actually stated that the Temenggong arrived on 'a beautiful fast-sailing sampan belonging to the Governor of the Straits Settlement rigged with graceful latteen sails'.

Prof Pellet noted that the full quote 'changes everything'.
It showed the Temenggong did not go to Pedra Branca as its sovereign, as Malaysia claimed, but as a guest of the British Governor.
Prof Pellet was speaking at the hearing before the ICJ over the ownership of Pedra Branca.
In the dispute, Singapore has asserted that the British government in Singapore took legal possession of Pedra Branca between 1847 and 1851, when it built a lighthouse there. The title of the island then passed to Singapore when it became independent.
But Malaysia claims that the Johor Sultanate had possessed Pedra Branca from time immemorial.
A second instance of Malaysia's selective quoting of historical documents was also highlighted on Wednesday, by Queen's Counsel Ian Brownlie, who is also acting for Singapore.

Malaysia had argued in its written pleadings that the British Crown never meant to acquire sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

If it had, it would have held a formal ceremony or issued formal documents to that effect, which it did not, Malaysia alleged. In doing so, Malaysia relied heavily on court documents from a dispute over Antarctica involving Britain.

Malaysia quoted half a sentence of the British application before the ICJ that 'Great Britain's title to the islands and territories of the Dependencies was thus formally confirmed and defined by the issue of the Letters Patent of 1908 and 1917...'

Letters Patent are formal documents granting certain powers.

Mr Brownlie pointed out that Malaysia omitted to quote the second half of the sentence, which reads '...but as has been shown, it did not originate or depend on these Letters Patent, and had been in existence for many decades previously'.

When read in full, the sentence made it clear that, contrary to Malaysia's claim, Britain did not regard formalities to be necessary to demonstrate title to a territory, he concluded.

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