Up to the Manilla to assert rights over South China Sea: Lawyer

By Ushar Daniele, Guest Writer

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Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey transits the South China Sea May 6, 2017.

Tomorrow will be exactly a year since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the Philippines an important victory in its claims that China were encroaching it territorial integrity.

This remains one of the most important lawsuit against China regarding its aggressive attitude in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, and it is a major slap to Beijing.

Beijing had taken a rogue attitude over the entire case – insulting the claimant against its illegal occupation of territories and taunting the IJC to vote in its favour – well before Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) were to decide on its ruling.

The Chinese show of force met with a rod of justice in a dispute that involved the Philippines, as the only Asean nation – fighting for its territorial integrity against the Chinese.

The Independent spoke to former Malaysian Bar Council President Ragunath Kesavan on this historic anniversary.

“No other country intervened and of course, China’s position was that it did not recognise the jurisdiction of the PCA.

While saying the political considerations have now overtaken the decision of the PCA, Ragunath believes it is all up to the Philippines to put its foot down and honour the Court’s decision.

“It is up to the Philippines to proceed further or to assert their “legal” rights bestowed by the PCA,” said the Malaysian lawyer, a man of international repute on the subject of geopolitical disputes.

He told The Independent there seems to be a shift in the position of the Philippines vis-à-vis the PCA decision.

Explaining it as some sort of “understanding” between China and the Philippines on this issue but he insists China has not backed down one bit and it now seems that the Philipines have accepted the status quo.

Though China now has taken a low-key approach to the South China Sea doesn’t seem to make many public statements, the countries involved seems to have maintained some form of dignified (and deafening) silence as well.

“I would think that there seems to be some form of understanding between all these countries including China not to escalate matters and this suggests some quid pro-quo in return.

“The building of military off posts and artificial islands are definitely of great concern to all the nations of the region as this are very important economic zones for these countries,” he said.

Malaysia is also most affected together with Brunei and the Indo-Chinese nations.

There should be a greater push to resolve these issues for all future generations and not be swayed by “investment” opportunities which are more of a short-term benefit and comes with so many strings attached, he said.

China is taking a more “diplomatic” approach rather than aggressiveness as they are pouring money into these countries to buy off some kind of impasse.

Perhaps hoping that the Asean nations will turn around and support China on its aggression in the waters, while they reap some promises of economic benefits from Beijing?

“As it had been in the past with Western aid to developing countries which is no free meal such is also the case with China.

“We should ensure that any investment from overseas much wanted and encouraged should comply fully with our national aspiration including shareholding local/bumiputra participation and other conditions imposed to satisfy national aspiration,” he said with regards to Malaysia’s position on the thorny issue.