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Umno Youth criticises PM Lee for ‘belittling’ Malaysia’s Pedra Branca challenge

KUALA LUMPUR — The youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) on Monday (Nov 21) accused Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of “belittling” Malaysia’s bid to challenge an international court ruling on Pedra Branca.

Umno Youth criticises PM Lee for ‘belittling’ Malaysia’s Pedra Branca challenge

Members of Umno Youth submitted a protest memorandum to the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (Nov 20). Photo: Twitter/Umno Youth

KUALA LUMPUR — The youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) on Monday (Nov 21) accused Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of “belittling” Malaysia’s bid to challenge an international court ruling on Pedra Branca.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin “strongly condemned” Mr Lee’s statement as an “irresponsible accusation”, saying that the prime minister’s remarks at the People's Action Party (PAP) convention could damage the good ties between both countries.

“It is easy to gain political support by making allegations against other countries as what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did during the PAP convention,” Mr Khairy said in a press statement issued in Malay.

“But unlike him, Malaysia takes the issue of sovereignty seriously, not only merely to gain support during general elections or political conventions.”

Mr Lee, who is the PAP's secretary-general, touched on Singapore’s ties with its closest neighbours — Malaysia and Indonesia — during the convention on Sunday.

He had said while Singapore’s relations with the two countries will continue to strengthen, ties are also complex, and that some issues will crop up from time to time.

An example of this was the case of Pedra Branca, also known as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia. Putrajaya has filed a challenge to the 2008 decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that ruled Pedra Branca to be Singaporean territory.

“I’m not sure what Malaysia’s motive is, but their general election is coming, and maybe that has something to do with it,” Mr Lee said.

The ownership of Pedra Branca has been the subject of a long-running dispute between Singapore and Malaysia.

It took more than 20 years for the dispute to be brought before the ICJ in July 2003. In May 2008, the court ruled Pedra Branca to be Singapore territory and that sovereignty over the Middle Rocks, a maritime feature to the south of Pedra Branca, belonged to Malaysia.

But the court refrained from awarding South Ledge, also to the south of Pedra Branca, to either Malaysia or Singapore.

In February this year, Malaysia filed a challenge to the ruling, following what it claimed was the discovery of new facts from three documents discovered in the United Kingdom’s national archive.

In June, Putrajaya filed another application asking the ICJ to interpret its ruling on Pedra Branca.

In its filing, Malaysia had claimed that both countries had been unable to agree over the judgment pertaining to Pedra Branca and South Ledge.

Singapore filed a rebuttal to Malaysia’s first application on May 24 and in late October, the Republic filed a second rebuttal to Malaysia’s ongoing challenge to the ICJ ruling.

Singapore has said that it is confident of its case and found Malaysia’s second application “puzzling”.

Mr Khairy, who is the Youth and Sports Minister, said on Monday (Nov 20) Malaysia's decision to file the application within six months of the discovery of new facts was a right accorded by the ICJ and followed fully by Malaysia.

Both its applications to the ICJ were not done without any basis, he said.

“For Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s information, when new facts were discovered in August 2016, Malaysia’s general elections had not been announced. The filing on February 2017 was made to accord time for the preparation of documents in the span of six months that was given,” he said.

“As a reminder, Malaysia’s Parliament has yet to be dissolved till this very day, more than a year after the discovery of new facts to the case.”

Hours after Mr Khairy's statement, Umno Youth Vice-Chief Khairul Azwan Harun handed over a protest note to the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. He was accompanied by some 15 members of the youth wing.

The note was handed over to deputy high commissioner Mark Neo.

In a 20-minute meeting with Mr Neo, Mr Khairul reiterated Mr Khairy's unhappiness over Mr Lee's statement.

"In the spirit of Asean solidarity, leaders should respect other member countries' leaders. If there are any issues, it should be addressed through the correct diplomatic channels," Mr Khairul told reporters after the meeting.

"We do not want anything to affect the good relations between Malaysia and Singapore, especially since there are already efforts to strengthen ties between both countries."

Malaysia's Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali added that Putrajaya's filings at the ICJ had nothing to do with politics and was based on laws.

“I agree with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The matter has nothing to do with politics or the general election,” he told The Malaysian Insight on Monday, adding that the case would likely be heard early next year at the soonest.

“The request for a review is based on new evidence found, and it is strictly based on laws.” AGENCIES

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