DAP lawmaker Prof P. Ramasamy has slammed Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said for her criticism of the former Pakatan Harapan (PH) Government under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for dereliction of duty in the Pulau Batu Puteh debacle.
In a Facebook post yesterday (Oct 17) the former Pengerang MP had contended that Malaysia had a reasonable chance of gaining sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh if only the PH government had not withdrawn the appeal in 2018.
“This is typical wishful thinking on her part to cast the blame on the former PH government. I am not sure what ‘new evidence’ she is talking about that was unearthed to shore up support for Malaysia,” Ramasamy commented.
“I regret to say that Azalina is barking up the wrong tree in exorcising the ghost of Pulau Batu Puteh. Yes, it is a terrible loss to Malaysia but both countries had submitted their application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“The ICJ’s decision [to award the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore] was binding and there is no need to be a cry baby over this loss.”
“Golden opportunity lost”
The question of sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh – also known as Pedra Branca – was brought to the ICJ in 2003 and in May 2008, the ICJ awarded the maritime feature to the island state.
An application for review had been filed in February 2017 by the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government but the PH administration had written to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to withdraw the application on May 28, 2018.
On this matter, Ramasamy noted that the last-minute appeal by the former BN Government in 2017 was predicated on the grounds of new evidence that was discovered before the appeal to the ICJ was prepared.
On Saturday (Oct 15), Mahathir claimed that the decision not to proceed with legal action at the ICJ on Malaysia’s claim to Pulau Batu Puteh was based on the advice of officers appointed by then Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
“The withdrawal of the appeal was a golden opportunity that was lost to Malaysia and [Singapore’s sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh] can no longer be challenged in any way as it is now time-barred by Article 61(5) of the ICJ Statute,” Ramasamy pointed out.
The statute in question provides that “No application for revision may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of the judgment”.
“Azalina regrets that the appeal that was so cleverly crafted under the guidance of Apandi was thrown out of the window by Mahathir and as a Johorean she is deeply disappointed by this decision, her reasoning being that if only Malaysia had studied the matter carefully and diligently Malaysia might have regained sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh,” Ramasamy elaborated.
“However, Azalina – by using selective information about Pulau Batu Puteh – has failed to mention the fact that in 1954, the state secretary of Johor in a dispatch to the colonial office in Singapore unequivocally gave up Johor’s claim of Pulau Batu Puteh to the British in Singapore.
“This was a piece of information in Singapore’s arsenal that [they had used in their quest to stake their claim over Pulau Batu Puteh and Azalina, by raising questions and answers, thinks that readers are naïve about Malaysia’s loss.”
Ramasamy stressed that there is no need to engage as “the answers given [by Azalina] are politically-tainted and meant to shore up the BN/UMNO regime”.
“On Pulau Batu Puteh Mahathir might have made a mistake by withdrawing the appeal. The problem with Mahathir was the fact that he should not have withdrawn the appeal as he could have taken a politically-correct stand by allowing the appeal to proceed,” he added.
“This was a mistake especially coming from a seasoned politician. It was naïve and politically incorrect to stop the appeal in its tracks.
“If there is any consolation, the other island – Middle Rocks – which is bigger than Pulau Batu Puteh has been recognised by the ICJ as belonging to Malaysia.
“Rather than raising hue and cry over the loss of Pulau Batu Puteh, Malaysia should strive to enhance the strategic value of Middle Rocks instead.” – Oct 18, 2022
Main photo credit: AFP