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Dr Mahathir says ‘reclaim Singapore’ remark reported out of context

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad clarified on Thursday (June 23) that a report of him saying Johor should reclaim Singapore and the Riau islands lacked the context to show he was mocking the idea.

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad clarified on Thursday (June 23) that a report of him saying Johor should reclaim Singapore and the Riau islands lacked the context to show he was mocking the idea.

On June 20, some media outlets reported him as making the remarks in a speech the previous day, which Dr Mahathir categorised as “inaccurate”.

“I am not asking Malaysia to claim the land that we had lost. I am trying to point out that we are so concerned over losing a table-size rock, Pulau Batu Puteh, but never about bigger parts of Malaysia when they were taken from us," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"Losing is no big deal. It was the mistake of the Johor government to deny that the rock belonged to Johor.

“Had that denial not been made, there would be no dispute now. We should be grateful that the world court awarded Pulau Ligitan and Sipadan to us," he added.

"They are much more valuable than Pulau Batu Puteh — just a rock outcrop. We should be thankful that Indonesia has not disputed the award. Really, we are not grateful for our gains.”

The media had reported Dr Mahathir as saying Malaysia should not stop at claiming Pedra Branca, but also Singapore and the Riau islands as these were once part of the country.

In 2008, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh) belonged to Singapore, while sovereignty over the nearby Terumbu Karang Tengah was awarded to Malaysia.

In 2017, the Malaysian government filed an application for review of the decision of the ICJ but the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government under Dr Mahathir withdrew the application before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11, 2018.

Following the initial media reports on Dr Mahathir's speech, Indonesia had said on Wednesday that there was no legal basis for the claim that the Riau Islands belonged to Malaysia.

New portal Tempo quoted Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah as saying that the roughly 1,800 islands that make up the Riau Islands province belong to Indonesia under international law.

"Indonesia does not see any legal basis and reason for Tun Mahathir's statement," he reportedly said.

"In a time when the world is facing many challenges, a senior politician should not be making baseless statements that can harm friendships." AGENCIES

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad foreign affairs Pedra Branca Malaysia

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