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Letting go of Pedra Branca to Singapore an example of international cooperation: Mahathir

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Accepting the loss of Pedra Branca to Singapore in 2008 is an example Malaysia believes in international cooperation, says Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who also says this illustrates the need for Asean nations to cooperate on the principles of common well-being.

Dr Mahathir made these comments in a speech at the 33rd Asia-Pacific Roundtable on June 25, at the Hilton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

He says despite his belief his country’s claims on Pedra Branca Island was legitimate; the country accepted the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008 to declare it a territory of Singapore.

According to Dr Mahathir, “Member states need not agree on everything to work well together. What counts is that we share basic principles of mutual respect, cooperation, sovereign equality, and common regional prosperity and well-being.

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When there is a dispute, we go to the table and discuss and negotiate. If we fail, we resort to arbitration or go to the International Court of Justice. We abide by the decisions.

Malaysia won in our overlapping claims of territory with Indonesia but lost in another with Singapore. All parties accepted the decision though we still feel strongly about our rights to the disputed territory that we lost.”

The Malaysian Prime Minister also mentions common claims with Thailand concerning the extraction of oil decades ago. A mutual agreement has meant that both countries have benefited over the years.

He reiterates that solving disputes between nations has led to regional stability and prosperity.

“Fifty-two years on, Asan became a thriving community in a stable and peaceful region. As I’ve pointed out earlier, disputes is being managed though a few are not resolved.”

Pedra Branca, which is known as Pulau Batu Puteh to the Malaysians, is an island claimed by both Singapore and Malaysia. The dispute over the island started in 1979 after Malaysia put out a map that showed the island as part of their territory.

The dispute over Pedra Branca was only resolved twenty-nine years later with the ruling from the ICJ, even if one island south of Pedra Branca was not awarded to either country.

Read related: Pedra Branca island added to East Coast electoral division–ELD

Malaysia made an attempt to get the ICJ ruling overturned when the Barisan Nasional coalition was in power, filing an application with the ICJ in February 2017 but it later abandoned those claims.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Singapore called this action by Malaysia as “puzzling”, “unnecessary and without merit.”

Malaysia cited three documents found in Britain’s National Archives that showed that in the 1950s and 60s, the country’s leaders “did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca.”

At the Nikkei Conference in Tokyo in May, the Malaysian Prime Minister also said that countries in the Asean have chosen judicial arbitration in situations wherein disputes could not be settled, and that, whether favorable or not, the international court has the final say.

He said, “This was the case in the conflict between Malaysia and Singapore over islands. These islands are definitely Malaysian islands, nobody can dispute that, but the court said it belongs to Singapore.

So what do we do? We agree to the court’s decision.”/ TISG

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