Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Get on with it

Indonesia has shown the way. It had claimed Sipadan and Ligitan, islands off the north-east coast of Borneo, long administered by Malaysia. It submitted those claims to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The court rejected them, ruling the islands rightfully belonged to Malaysia. Jakarta accepted the decision, calmly and disinterestedly, in a model display of what it means to uphold international law.

Would it be too much to ask that Malaysia's claim to Singapore's Pedra Branca be resolved in the same fashion? Evidently so, judging from the wild and inaccurate accusations about Singapore that have been trumpeted in the Malaysian media in recent weeks.

Singapore has delayed submitting the dispute to the ICJ, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad asserted. Not true: It was Singapore which had first proposed in 1989 that Malaysia's claim to Pedra Branca be submitted to the court. It has said since then that it is ready to sign the Special Agreement that both countries have agreed to in order to effect the referral.

Malaysia had correctly rejected Jakarta's complaint then, arguing that it had done nothing more than continue with activities undertaken before the dispute arose.

By what principle of justice (or logic, for that matter) can Malaysia deny Singapore the right to pursue a course of action that it had pursued itself?

As both governments have agreed, the ICJ is the proper venue to resolve this matter. Malaysia should get on with it, sticking to the facts, just the facts.

-- The Straits Times, Singapore