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Malaysia discontinue legal proceedings against Singapore concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca

The new Malaysia government has dropped two cases by the previous administration against Singapore relating to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s original Judgment of 23 May 2008 in the case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced on Wednesday (30 May) that it had agreed with Malaysia’s request for discontinuance of proceedings.

In that judgment, the Court found that sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia and sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located.

Malaysia’s two applications were for revision of the ICJ’s original Judgment pursuant to Article 61 of the Statute of the ICJ, filed on 2 February 2017 and a request for interpretation of the ICJ’s original Judgment pursuant to Article 60 of the Statute of the ICJ, filed on 30 June 2017.

According to the ministry, Malaysia informed the ICJ on 28 May 2018 that it would discontinue the proceedings that it had initiated earlier.

Singapore then informed the ICJ on 29 May 2018 that it agreed with Malaysia’s request for discontinuance. 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.

In letters dated 29 May 2018, the ICJ informed Malaysia and Singapore that the Court had placed on record the discontinuance, by agreement of the Parties, of the proceedings instituted on 2 February 2017 and 30 June 2017 by Malaysia against Singapore, and directed that the cases be removed from the Court’s List.

Responding to the ICJ’s notification, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said, “We were confident of our case, and the correctness of the original ICJ decision. 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,” he added.

The press release from the ministry 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.

The Malaysian PM stated that his government is thinking of expanding Middle Rocks, saying, “On Middle Rocks, we have already built structures. It is our intention to enlarge middle rocks so that we can form a small island for us.”