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May 26, 2008

Pile of rocks or island?

Pile of rocks or island? To our experts, this is no trivial matter

malaysiainsider - May 26 — If you take a look at news of Pulau Batu Puteh from today, you may notice something. A subtle name change. The Malaysian Insider learned that there was a request from Wisma Putra – specifically the technical committee set up to study implications of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision – to refer to Pulau Batu Puteh not as an island.

Essentially, they want it to be referred to as either Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca. A check with the editors of two national dailies confirmed the request. "There is no directive but it was more of a favour ... to not refer to the island as an island," said one of the editors.

He went on to elaborate that since it now belongs to Singapore, the newspaper will now refer to the island as Pedra Branca – the way Singapore has always referred to it. He also noted that it should also not be a problem to refer to the island as Batu Puteh. "Just drop the word pulau ... like the way we refer to Penang or Singapore."

But why all this quibbling? What’s in a name, you ask? Apparently, quite a lot. It has to do with territorial seas; this is different for islands and rocks. So it looks like the technical committee is keen on Pedra Branca being officially defined as rocks and not an island.

The next step after the ICJ decision is the setting up of a bilateral committee to draw up Malaysia and Singapore’s maritime borders around Pedra Branca. After all, the dispute was not so much over the pile of rocks now known as Pedra Branca but the sea around it.

It should be interesting to watch how the whole thing unfolds in the weeks to come. Since Wisma Putra has planted the idea that Pedra Branca is "not an island," it looks like they may have some sort of strategy already.

In the meantime, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of Parti Keadilan Rakyat criticised the Malaysian team that went to The Hague. He said Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail who led the team was better at following the orders of his political masters than international law.

HarakahDaily.net reports that the International Court of Justice’s decision will be brought up in Parliament tomorrow. PAS vice-president Ustaz Nasharudin Mat Isa was reported to have said the loss was due to the weakness of the Malaysian team.
It looks like we will be hearing a lot more about Pedra Branca in the days ahead. Or is it Batu Puteh?


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