Pulau Batu Puteh suit: High Court gives PM, govt until October to file statement of defence

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. — Reuters pic
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. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — The High Court here today allowed an application by the prime minister and the government for a time extension to file their statement of defence against a suit regarding the withdrawal of the review application over the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision that Singapore has sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh.

Judge Datuk Rozana Ali Yusoff has given the prime minister and the government, as first and second defendants respectively, until October 23 to file their statement of defence.

Based on the notice of application filed on September 7, the defendants had applied for more time on the grounds that the plaintiff’s statement of claim was loaded with matters related to the history of the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute between Malaysia and Singapore since 1979.

As such, the defendants would need to scrutinise each related document before responding to the historical facts as raised in the plaintiff’s statement of claim, they said in the notice of application.

Mohaji Selamat, the lawyer for plaintiff Mohd Hatta Sanuri, when contacted by Bernama, said there were no objections to the defendant’s application.

“Online case management (e-Review) will be held on October 29,” he said after the virtual proceedings that were also participated by Senior Federal Counsel Erma Wani Ahmad Kaflee.

In 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government under the leadership of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad withdrew an application to overturn ICJ’s ruling awarding legal jurisdiction of Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11, 2018.

On May 28, Mohd Hatta, 45, filed the suit on his behalf and on behalf of the more than 32 million Malaysians affected by the withdrawal of the review application, without discussing and tabling it first in Parliament.

In his statement of claim, Mohd Hatta sought an order for the defendants to provide a written explanation as to why they had withdrawn from the review of the ICJ’s decision on June 1, 2018, when a review application with strong evidence had been initiated and filed since February 3, 2017.

The plaintiff also sought a declaration that the defendants were negligent, committed treason, fraud and breach of trust against all Malaysians including the plaintiff when they dropped the review bid.

He also sought a declaration for the two defendants to pay compensation to each Malaysian based on the land value of Pulau Batu Puteh and based on the economic losses suffered by all Malaysians including the plaintiff, equally, amounting to at least RM10 million each.

An order was also sought for both defendants to disclose in detail the total cost incurred by the second defendant (government) for the preparation of the ICJ decision review application on February 3, 2017, until the defendants abruptly withdrew the application on June 1, 2018. — Bernama

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