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Not clear how ‘new facts’ will impact Pedra Branca ruling: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s legal team will study and respond to Malaysia’s application to the International Court of Justice to revise its judgment on Pedra Branca, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has said.

Not clear how ‘new facts’ will impact Pedra Branca ruling: Shanmugam

The tiny island of Pedra Branca sits at the entrance to the Singapore Strait about 30km east of the city state and 15km off peninsular Malaysia's southern coast on Jan 6, 2003. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s legal team will study and respond to Malaysia’s application to the International Court of Justice to revise its judgment on Pedra Branca, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has said.

He reiterated, however, that he could not see, based on a “quick look” and without the benefit of legal advice, how the documents Malaysia found in the United Kingdom’s archives would make any difference now or even before the judgment was rendered in 2008.

Malaysia is challenging the Pedra Branca judgment using three documents: Internal correspondence of the Singapore colonial authorities in 1958, an incident report filed in 1958 by a British naval officer and an annotated map of naval operations from the 1960s. The country claims these documents establish that “officials at the highest levels in the British colonial and Singaporean administration appreciated that Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh did not form part of Singapore’s sovereign territory” during the relevant period.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia yesterday morning in his Chong Pang ward, Mr Shanmugam said he had no doubt that Singapore has put together the “best team” to study the matter and respond. The team includes Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Professor S Jayakumar, Professor Tommy Koh and former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong.

“Their knowledge in international law is unquestioned, and also their knowledge in the facts of this case cannot be matched because they actually dealt with it for years — for five years — and took it to the tribunal,” said Mr Shanmugam. “We’re very happy that they’ve agreed to come back and deal with this issue which arises from the main dispute. So the knowledge, the understanding, the detailed assessment which they have is invaluable.”

The Pedra Branca veterans will be assisted by lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

On whether the issue would affect bilateral ties, Mr Shanmugam said countries will always have differences and that issues would fester if left unresolved. “In our view as a small country, the best way of resolving these differences is to have the dispute ... decided by a neutral international tribunal, because if you look at the other ways of resolving disputes, they’re not very attractive,” he said.

 

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we stated that Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had studied Malaysia’s application to the International Court of Justice to revise its judgment. This is incorrect. Mr Shanmugam said he “just had a quick look” at the application. We apologise for the error.

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