KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has today accused the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the sovereignty of Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge of refusing access to his legal team.

In a statement through his lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali, Dr Mahathir stated that his legal team was not given prior notice about the RCI proceedings which began today and was told that they would be behind closed doors.

“When my legal representatives found out about the RCI happening today, they tried to attend so we could bring forth some of our objections and requests. However, all of it was turned down and the proceedings then took place behind closed doors.

“These proceedings are being conducted in secrecy as no one was notified it was beginning today. How am I going to explain myself and defend myself if my lawyers and I were not allowed to attend these proceedings?” he said in the statement

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Dr Mahathir criticised this move, asserting that either he or his lawyers should be present throughout the proceedings, as mandated by Act 119 of the Commissions Of Enquiry Act 1950.

In 2008, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Batu Puteh belonged to Singapore. In 2017, Malaysia applied to the ICJ for an interpretation of the judgment.

However, in 2018, Dr Mahathir’s administration withdrew the application. The Pakatan Harapan government, led by Dr Mahathir, withdrew the application to overturn the ICJ’s ruling before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11, 2018.

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Dr Mahathir then clarified that Malaysia and Singapore had earlier agreed in writing not to file any pleas, making the ICJ’s ruling final.

In February, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim approved the formation of the RCI to investigate the issue.

The RCI is chaired by former Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif, with former Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali as deputy chairman. Other members include legal expert Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu, former dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Malaya Prof. Johan Shamsuddin Sabaruddin, constitutional and administrative law expert Prof. Datin D. Faridah Jalil, Johor Financial Officer Datuk Mohammed Ridha Abd Kadir, and Director of the South Region at the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Dickson Dollah.

Dr Mahathir also called for the removal of Raus, Baljit, Ridha and Abdul Kadir from the panel today citing conflicts of interest, but did not elaborate.

The former prime minister also said that any decision made during his 2018 administration was with Cabinet consent, naming his then-deputy Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and those in his Cabinet: Anthony Loke, Gobind Singh and Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.