Malaysia withdraws Pedra Branca challenge, Vivian Balakrishnan says S'pore "happy to agree"

But M'sia PM Mahathir wants to enlarge Middle Rocks to form an island.

Kayla Wong| May 30, 05:45 PM

Malaysia has withdrawn its bid to challenge the 2008 ruling on Pedra Branca by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

This comes after Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said during a press conference on Wednesday, May 30, that Malaysia is "doing some rethinking about that".

MFA statement

Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on the same day, saying that Malaysia informed the ICJ on 28 May 2018 about the withdrawal, while Singapore informed the ICJ a day later that it agreed with Malaysia’s "request for discontinuance".

In the statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said:

“We were confident of our case, and the correctness of the original ICJ decision.

When Malaysia requested to discontinue the cases, without them being argued, we were happy to agree.

Both Malaysia and Singapore had gone through the due legal process and put this matter to rest."

Malaysia can no longer challenge the ruling

The ICJ had ruled on May 23, 2008, that Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore.

Any challenge to the ruling will have to be filed before a 10-year deadline.

With the deadline now over, Malaysia is now effectively giving up its right to seek a revision of the ruling by ICJ.

M'sia wants to form an island out of Middle Rocks

Nevertheless, Mahathir said that Malaysia wanted to enlarge Middle Rocks -- roughly two clusters of rocks 1km south of Pedra Branca -- to "form a small island".

Although artificial islands are not considered islands and do not get any territorial waters or exclusive economic zones (EEZs) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), only the structure itself, a safety zone of a 500 metre perimeter around the structure is allowed.


What's up with Pedra Branca?

Pedra Branca is an island that consists of a small outcrop of granite rocks with an area of about 8,560 square metres.

The name is Portuguese for ‘White Rock', and the white colouration of the rocks comes from bird droppings.

Malaysia thought that it had sovereign rights over the island and brought the matter to the ICJ in 2003. The island was then ruled in Singapore's favour in 2008.

However, the island came back on the news on 2 Feb, 2017, when Malaysia filed an application with the ICJ to review the judgement, citing new evidence that have been discovered to support their claim.

The move was criticised as drumming up nationalist fervour before the election due to its timing before the 2018 general election.

Singapore also submitted its own "comprehensive and compelling rebuttal", saying that they are confident of their case.

New changes with new M'sia government

Malaysia's new government seems to be making quite a few changes since its formation.

The changes made so far include the abolishment of Goods and Services Tax (GST), the cancelling of the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, and now the withdrawal of its bid to challenge the ICJ ruling on Pedra Branca.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance which won the election in a shock victory, has also made other promises, including standardising and increasing minimum wage and setting up a provident fund for housewives, that they pledged to achieve within the first 100 days in office.


Top image via Singapore Memorial