ICJ to hold public hearings on Pedra Branca case in June at The Hague
SINGAPORE: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings in June for two cases brought by Malaysia against Singapore on the sovereignty of Pedra Branca, the UN's principal judicial body said on Thursday (Apr 5).
The first case is Malaysia's application for revision of the ICJ's 2008 judgment, which gave Singapore sovereignty over Pedra Branca, filed on Feb 2 last year. The ICJ will hold four days of public hearings for this case, starting from Jun 11.
The second case is Malaysia’s request for interpretation of the ICJ’s judgment, filed on Jun 30 last year. The ICJ will also hold four days of public hearings for this case, from Jun 18 to 19 and Jun 21 to 22.
Both of the hearings will be held at the Peace Palace at The Hague, Netherlands.
Pedra Branca - referred to by Malaysia as Batu Puteh - was first claimed as a territory of the Johor Sultanate in 1979. Singapore protested and the matter was brought to the ICJ.
On May 23, 2008, the ICJ ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca, while Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia and South Ledge belonged to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.
In February 2017, Malaysia's Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali filed an application for a revision of the ICJ's judgment.
Malaysia applied to revise the judgment, claiming "a new fact" unearthed from three documents discovered in the National Archives of the United Kingdom between Aug 4, 2016, and Jan 30, 2017.
In a separate case, on Jun 30, 2017, Malaysia filed an application to the ICJ requesting interpretation of the 2008 judgment.
Its new application claims South Ledge, along with the waters surrounding Pedra Branca, as located within its territorial waters.
SINGAPORE "CONFIDENT" OF CASE: VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN
Prior to the public hearings, Malaysia and Singapore exchanged written submissions consequent to the filing of Malaysia’s application for revision, and the filing of Malaysia’s request for interpretation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Friday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said that Singapore's legal team “strongly believes” that the three documents relied on by Malaysia in their application to overturn the ICJ ruling do not satisfy the criteria laid out for a revision of a judgment.
"We are confident of our legal team and our case," he told Parliament on Mar 2 last year.
The Singapore legal team includes Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor S Jayakumar, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.
As for Malaysia's application requesting interpretation of the judgment, Singapore has called the move "unnecessary and without merit".
"Malaysia's request for the ICJ to interpret the judgment is puzzling. Singapore will therefore oppose Malaysia's application for interpretation, which we consider to be both unnecessary and without merit," MFA said in July last year.
SINGAPORE: Malaysia has discontinued proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) relating to the court's 2008 judgment, which awarded sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore.
In a press statement on Wednesday (May 30), Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it had been informed by the ICJ of Malaysia's decision to drop two cases to revise and to interpret the judgment.
The statement came shortly after new Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a media conference that his government would “reconsider” the previous administration's challenge to the Pedra Branca ruling.
Dr Mahathir added that his government is thinking of expanding Middle Rocks, which was awarded to Malaysia in the 2008 ICJ decision.
"On Middle Rocks we have already built structures," he said. "It is our intention to enlarge middle rocks so that we can form a small island for us."
Malaysia had informed the ICJ on Monday that it would discontinue the proceedings, said MFA, adding that Singapore then told the ICJ on Tuesday that it agreed with Malaysia's request.
"Prior to that, the Malaysian Solicitor General had written to inform Singapore’s Attorney-General of Malaysia’s intention to discontinue the proceedings, and Singapore’s Attorney-General had replied conveying Singapore’s agreement," MFA added.
In response to Malaysia's decision to discontinue its challenges, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said "we are happy to agree".
“We were confident of our case, and the correctness of the original ICJ decision," said Dr Balakrishnan.
"When Malaysia requested to discontinue the cases, without them being argued, we were happy to agree. Both Malaysia and Singapore had gone through the due legal process and put this matter to rest.
"I would like to thank our legal team, led by Professor S Jayakumar, for their meticulous and comprehensive preparations. The team had put forward clear and compelling arguments against the submissions advanced by Malaysia.”
The legal team that Singapore had assembled also included Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.
A rocky outpost located 44km off Singapore’s east coast, the dispute over the ownership of Pedra Branca, referred to by Malaysia as Batu Puteh, dates back to 1979 when Malaysia published a map indicating that the island was within the country’s territorial waters.
The matter was brought to the ICJ in 2003, and on May 23, 2008, it ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca, while Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia and South Ledge belonged to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.
Malaysia filed two applications after the ruling - one on Feb 2, 2017, to revise the ICJ's 2008 judgment. Its case was hinged on three documents discovered in the National Archives of the United Kingdom that demonstrated officials at the highest levels “did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca” during the 1950s to 1960s.
The second application on Jun 30, 2017, sought an interpretation of the same ICJ judgment. It requested that the ICJ declare the waters surrounding Pedra Branca to be Malaysia’s and in turn, the sovereignty of South Ledge belongs to Malaysia – a move that Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as “puzzling”, “unnecessary and without merit”.
Public hearings for the two cases had been scheduled for next month at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s decision to drop its legal challenges on Pedra Branca’s sovereignty is not a surprise, said Professor S Jayakumar on Thursday (May 31), who added that the latest development has “put the matter to rest amicably”.
Professor S Jayakumar is the chair of Singapore’s Pedra Branca International Court of Justice (ICJ) Committee. Alongside Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, they form the core of the country’s legal team for this case.
Professor Jayakumar, Professor Koh and Mr Chan were also part of the original team that argued Singapore’s case at The Hague in 2007.
In response to media queries about Malaysia's decision to discontinue legal proceedings, Professor Jayakumar said in a statement that he was “very surprised” when the former Malaysian government filed two applications to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year to revise and to interpret a 2008 judgement that awarded the sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore.
The former deputy prime minister said the Singapore team, alongside the foreign legal counsel, felt that Malaysia’s cases “had very weak legal basis”.
“We were very confident of our own legal case on both applications,” he said. “Therefore I am not surprised that the new Malaysian Government had proposed to discontinue both these cases. This has put the matter to rest amicably.”
He added that he began working with the legal team on the cases since last February, and that all members of the team were fully prepared for the upcoming oral hearings at the ICJ.
“Some members of the team are disappointed that the cases will not be heard. They had put in a lot of work and were looking forward to arguing our cases before the ICJ Judges,” he added.
Nevertheless, Professor Jayakumar said he has been cheered by the way the Singapore team has worked on the cases throughout the past one and a half years.
He was, for one, “very impressed” by the legal acumen and dedication of the younger lawyers in the team.
“The more senior lawyers … have worked very well with the younger international lawyers in the team,” he said. “We now have a new generation of highly competent international lawyers. We are in good hands when similar international legal disputes arise in the future.”
He also highlighted the “great inter-agency team effort”, which involved close collaboration between various agencies like the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He also acknowledged the “excellent trio of foreign legal counsel”, comprising Professor Alain Pellet, Mr Rodman Bundy and Mr Daniel Muller.