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Transcript of Senior Minister-of-State Balaji Sadasivan's replies to Parliamentary Questions and a Supplementary Question, 21 July 2008

21 Jul 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF SENIOR MINISTER-OF-STATE BALAJI SADASIVAN'S REPLIES TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS, 21 JULY 2008

Questions:

*649. Mr Michael Anthony Palmer: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is the status of negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore in respect of the Southern Ledge following the decision of the International Court of Justice on Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks; and (b) whether Singapore intends to claim territorial waters and an Exclusive Economic Zone around Pedra Branca.

*659. Ms Indranee Rajah: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs what is the Government's response to the assertion by Malaysia that it will continue to look for further evidence on the Pedra Branca case, with a view to seeking a revision of the judgment of the International Court of Justice that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.

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REPLY:

Mr Speaker Sir, please allow me to take the questions above on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge together as they are related.

2 To answer Mr Michael Anthony Palmer, the ICJ on 23 May 2008 awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore, while Middle Rocks was awarded to Malaysia. The ICJ stated that South Ledge belonged to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located. The status of South Ledge therefore depends upon whether it falls on Singapore's or Malaysia's side of the territorial waters boundary in that area. The process which will eventually lead to discussions on the territorial waters boundary has already started. Since the judgment of the ICJ, the Joint Committee led by Wisma Putra Secretary-General Rastam Mohd Isa and MFA Permanent Secretary Peter Ho met on 3 June 2008 to discuss the implementation of the judgment. At the meeting, both sides reiterated their commitment to honour and abide by the ICJ's judgment and fully implement its decision. Both parties also agreed that a technical sub-committee would be set up to oversee the conduct of Joint Survey Works to prepare for eventual talks on maritime issues in and around Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge. Officials on both sides are currently working towards carrying out the Joint Survey Works which are expected to start later this year.

3 With regard to the second part of Mr Michael Anthony Palmer's question, yes, Singapore is claiming a territorial sea and an Exclusive Economic Zone around Pedra Branca. As we had indicated in the Press Statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated 15 September 1980 and 23 May 2008, Singapore has a territorial sea limit that extends up to a maximum of 12 nautical miles and an Exclusive Economic Zone. This is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 10 December 1982, to which Singapore is a party. The precise coordinates of Singapore's territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone will be announced at an appropriate time. Should the limits of our territorial sea or Exclusive Economic Zone overlap with the claims of neighbouring countries, Singapore will negotiate with those countries with a view to arriving at agreed delimitations in accordance with international law.

4 To answer Ms. Indranee Rajah, according to Article 61 of the Statute of the ICJ, a party is able to apply for a review of an ICJ judgment if "it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence". I would like to highlight that the ICJ in its 23 May 2008 judgment ruled that Johor had original title over Pedra Branca before the lighthouse was built but added that "what is decisive for the Court is the conduct of the authorities in Singapore (and India) and in Johor following the 1844 exchanges of correspondences". So even if this 1844 letter was discovered, and even if its contents demonstrated that Johor had title over Pedra Branca in 1844, in our view it is unlikely to make a difference to the court's judgment because the Court had already ruled that Johor had original title over Pedra Branca. In fact, Singapore had searched for the 1844 letter over many years at various archives but to no avail. We had also stated both in our written pleadings and during the public hearing by DPM Prof S Jayakumar at the ICJ in November 2007 that Singapore does not have a copy of Butterworth's 1844 letter.

5 I would like to conclude by noting that by resolving this dispute through third party adjudication, both countries have demonstrated our respect for international law and our commitment to settle disputes in an amicable manner. This case exemplifies the usefulness of a third party dispute settlement mechanism and can be a model for resolving other bilateral disputes.

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TRANSCRIPT OF SENIOR MINISTER-OF-STATE BALAJI SADASIVAN'S REPLY TO A SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION, 21 JULY 2008

MP Ho Peng Kee: Mr Speaker Sir, a clarification from the SMS. SMS, I'd like to clarify some of the media reports with regards to Pulau Pisang. The Malaysian media have been commenting on Pulau Pisang. Can we state our position on Pulau Pisang?

SMS Balaji: The Malaysian media will report the internal discussions within Malaysia and there may be many opinions expressed by individual Malaysians, but the official view of Malaysia and Singapore is that we are both committed to adhering to the judgment of the ICJ.

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