10 February 2017
Malaysia’s revival of a decades-old issue with Singapore over the islet of Pedra Branca could be a political manoeuvre ahead of elections, according to researchers and analysts specialising in relations between the neighbours.
The rocky outpost 44km off Singapore’s east coast – referred to by Malaysia as Batu Puteh – was first claimed as Johor territory in 1979. Singapore protested, the matter was brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2003 and in 2008, Pedra Branca was ruled as under Singapore’s sovereignty.
On Feb 2 this year, however, Malaysia applied to revise the judgment, claiming three newly unearthed documents in the National Archives of the United Kingdom (UK) demonstrated that officials at the highest levels “did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca” during the 1950s to 1960s.
Malaysia also said the three documents – found between Aug 4, 2016 and Jan 30, 2017 – were previously confidential and only made publicly available after the 2008 ruling. Channel NewsAsia understands the three documents were released around 2013.
… Research analyst David Han of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) echoed this point. “Some politicians could seek to leverage this issue … to boost their success in the coming elections and serve as a distraction from other more pressing domestic issues.”
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 14/02/2017