Malaysia just brought its Pedra Branca challenge to a surprising halt and Singapore is ‘happy to agree’

Singapore was “happy to agree” with Malaysia’s request to discontinue its legal proceedings concerning Pedra Branca.
The Straits Times

Malaysia has withdrawn its bid for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to revise its decision which granted sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore.

According to a press statement on Wednesday (May 30), Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it was informed by the ICJ that Malaysia had discontinued its challenges with regards to the Court’s judgement on May 23, 2008, concerning territorial sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

The ICJ declared in that judgement Singapore’s control over Pedra Branca outpost, situated about 46km to the east of Changi on the Singapore mainland.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was given sovereignty over Middle Rocks, an outcrop located near the opening of the Straits of Singapore and in close proximity to Pedra Branca.

Since then, Pedra Branca became the subject of legal and political belligerence between the two nations with Malaysia previously bringing two cases against Singapore.

The first case involved Malaysia filing an application for the revision of the ICJ’s original judgement on Feb 2, 2017.

The second concerned its request for an interpretation of the original judgement which was filed on Jun 30, 2017.

However, in an unexpected turnabout, Malaysia notified the ICJ on Monday (May 28) that it would cease its proceedings, with Singapore informing the Court on the following day that it had agreed with the former’s request for discontinuance.

“Prior to that, the Malaysian Solicitor General had written to inform Singapore’s Attorney-General of Malaysia’s intention to discontinue the proceedings, and Singapore’s Attorney-General had replied conveying Singapore’s agreement,” the statement said.

The ICJ responded on May 29, informing the two countries that the discontinuance had been placed on record and that directions would be given to remove the cases from the Court’s List.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said in the statement: “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.”

In an earlier statement at a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced plans to expand Middle Rocks, noting that Malaysia-owned structures have already been built there.

“It is our intention to enlarge Middle Rocks so we can form a small island for us,” he said.

Details about the rationale and plans for developing the outcrop have not yet been revealed.