Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said that reports of his remarks on "reclaiming" the Riau Islands in Indonesia and Singapore lacked context, and he was in fact mocking the idea.
However, his comments were not well received by many Malaysian commenters.
On June 23, Mahathir shared a Facebook post explaining himself.
He claimed that the report on what he said is "not accurate", and went on, referring to Pedra Branca as Pulau Batu Puteh:
"I am not asking Malaysia to claim the land that we had lost. I am trying to point out that we are so concerned over losing a table-size rock but never about bigger parts of Malaysia when they were taken from us.
Losing Pulau Batu Puteh is no big deal. It was the mistake of the Johore Government to deny that the rock belonged to Johor. Had that denial not been made, there would be no dispute now."
He also referred to the judgment of the International Court of Justice in 2002 that the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan, off the coast of Borneo, belonged to Malaysia instead of Indonesia.
"We should be grateful that the world court awarded Pulau Ligitan and Sipadan to us. They are much more valuable than Pulau Batu Puteh – just a rock outcrop. We should be thankful that Indonesia has not disputed the award. Really, we are not grateful for our gains."
Whacked by the public
But if Mahathir thought his post would calm the fires that he himself had stoked, he was wrong.
A significant number of the comments left on Mahathir's post disagreed with him, and castigated him for "losing" Pedra Branca.
They included former prime minister Najib Razak:
Translated, he said, "Losing Pedra Branca is no big deal, ya? A trivial matter, ya? A small wound?"
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2008 that Singapore holds sovereignty over Pedra Branca.
It's important to note that Malaysia did not "lose" Pedra Branca, because the ICJ did not transfer sovereignty of the island from Malaysia to Singapore. It ruled that Singapore held sovereignty over Pedra Branca all along.
When the Malaysian government in 2018 (under Mahathir's premiership) withdrew their application to challenge the 2008 ICJ ruling, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said then:
"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."
Also, there were some who had other concerns on their mind.
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