Dr M: Malaysia wants to enlarge Middle Rocks to form island

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a news conference at Perdana Putra May 30, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a news conference at Perdana Putra May 30, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

PUTRAJAYA, May 30 — Malaysia is “rethinking” its recent challenge to the 2008 Pedra Branca judgement, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today, some two weeks ahead of public hearings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the matter.

“We are doing some rethinking about that,” said Dr Mahathir when asked about the issue at press conference after a Cabinet meeting.

He gave no further details, but noted that Malaysia wanted to enlarge Middle Rocks, which consists of two clusters of rocks 1km south of Pedra Branca, so as to “form a small island”.

In May 2008, the ICJ ruled Pedra Branca, which sits at the entrance to the Singapore Strait about 30km east of the Republic, to be Singapore territory.

The court ruled that sovereignty over the Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia.

Malaysia set up a new maritime installation on Middle Rocks last year. The Abu Bakar Maritime Base comprises a 316m jetty, a helipad, and a lighthouse, according to the IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Dr Mahathir said: “We have already built features there on Middle Rocks. Our intention is to enlarge it so that we can form a small island for us.”

The row over the ownership of Pedra Branca dates back to 1979, when Malaysia published a map indicating the island to be within the country’s territorial waters.

Singapore lodged a formal protest with Malaysia in early 1980. It took more than 20 years for the dispute to be brought before the ICJ in July 2003.

Despite ICJ’s 2008 ruling, Malaysia filed two applications last year challenging the court’s ruling to award Pedra Branca to Singapore.

Putrajaya filed the first application in February last year, citing what it claimed was the discovery of new facts from three documents recently discovered in the United Kingdom’s national archive, which it said would have resulted in a “different conclusion” by the ICJ.

Singapore filed a rebuttal to Malaysia’s first application on May 24.

Malaysia then filed a second application on June 30 challenging the 2008 ruling.

Putrajaya had asked the court to award waters around Pedra Branca, and a maritime feature south of it called South Ledge, to Malaysia.

Singapore filed another rebuttal on Oct 30.

The public hearings for Malaysia’s first challenge are scheduled to be heard at the ICJ from June 11 to 18, while the hearings for Putrajaya’s second challenge will take place from June 18 to 22. — TODAY