Thursday, November 22, 2007


Horsburgh - Malaysian version (Source: Singapore Straits Times)

I dont usually like to comment on an ongoing court proceeding but I am rather disturbed by news reports that the Malaysian legal team headed by our Attorney General has resorted to cheating at the International Courts of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The Straits Times of Singapore has reported that Malaysia, " in an attempt to convey a subliminal message of proximity between Pedra Branca and the coast of Johor, produced a (plagiarised) photograph which was not an accurate reflection of what visitors to Pedra Branca would see if they were looking towards the Johor mainland ". (Screenshots also has the story, here).

Pedra Blanca or Pulau Batu Putih, we mariners have always referred to this tiny island in the middle of nowhere sticking out like a sore thumb, as Horsburgh - after the lighthouse built on it. I have sailed past Horsburgh many times and I dont recall seeing the Johor mainland up close as in above photograph.

It would be a crying shame indeed if we were to lose Pulau Batu Putih due to cloak and dagger chicanery and ineptitude of our team.


  1. YA, putting the photo aside, Horsbourgh is so close to Johor compared to Singapore which are miles away from it - but all the same greedy & selfish Singapore style, until today they still do not want to leave the Pulau Pisang lighthouse off Batu Pahat. So if they win this they can claim Pu Pisang pulak ?

  2. The photograph taken from beyond Horsburgh Lighthouse, certainly does not give a true picture, it has obviously been either digitally manipulated or has been taken using a telephoto (zoom) technique which makes distant objects (in this case the coast of Johor) look much nearer than they really are.

    I too have sailed passed Horsburgh Lighthouse numerous times, and the view submitted by the Malaysian team at the ICJ in the Hague is definitely misleading.

    Having read the transcripts of the ICJ hearing, my comments with regard to the calibre and qualification of the Malaysian team at the hearing, are, that I find it regrettable that some members must either naive, inept or are perhaps purposely fudging the issues.
    As far as I am aware there is not even one Master Mariner in the team.

  3. Jeff,

    I believe there are very proper signed agreements regarding maintenance of the Pu. Pisang lighthouse by Singapore and the question of sovereignty does not arise here. We have been quite happy to let S'pore share the burden.

    But Horsburgh is not quite clear and it doesnt help that in 1953 an acting Johor state secretary 'gave away' the island in a letter. It seems to me you Johorians were in the habit of giving away islands to the Brits ... ha ha.

  4. plagiarism? asked NSTP lah. they be able to help you.

  5. YA, we were never happy to have them at Pu Pisang but all the same they just hang on to the old agreement and never want to leave.

    Now the lighthouse keeper wants to be the landowner.

  6. Jaflam going by your argument on claims because of proximity then Falklands must belong to Argentina lah and not UK.As to master mariner Kapt Karim they used one of your former colleaque and it failed them.
    My view Malaysian team will have a hard time on this claim. They have dedicated individuals from the foreign ministry like Tan Sri Kadir and Raja Nazrin but there is a limit to what they can do. Supporting materials for the claim need to come from many departments including Johor State.Marine Dept and Ministry of Transport are important players. But there is no contract to give away here so the officers including the Minister of Transport don't really bother with the claim. Other problems being continuity. Officers retire or change Ministries or Departments without proper handover notes and new staff has nothing to work on.All the material are in English and for new officers they have a language problem. Compare this to Singapore Head of Delegation, Ambassador at Large Tommy Koh. Been doing the same thing maybe for 30 years, was the Chairman of the Law of the Sea Convention and he did very well.
    So my view is we will lose. I am saying this not because I am not loyal to my country, far from it. But we will lose because the Civil Service is weak and the Civil Service is weak because they do not attract talents and this is because compared to the private sector they cannot compete to attract smart people to handle issues like this.
    Of course there are other fundamental problems causing all this; our poor educational system.
    Coming back to Pulau Batu Puteh if by a long shot we win credit should go to the Foreign Ministry and the legal consultants they have employed. Most others in the Malaysian team are passengers.

  7. Does anyone know if the sovereignty over the island will affect the boundary of between our 2 countries?

  8. pemerhati, very well said, I agree with you.

    The choice of the team may perhaps be the best available from a very limited pool of current civil service talent, but surely there are many retired Malaysian ladies and gentlemen who are English educated, who have vast experience and are knowledgeable in their own field and also well versed regarding the subject matter.
    One wonders why these persons were not invited to join the team?

    The chosen Malaysian team (local component), has some strengths, but it is heavily ballasted, and is no match for the strong team from Singapore.

    It also appears the the Malaysian side has been less than efficient it their research, planning and preparation for the hearing at the ICJ in the Hague.

    Going by what I have read in the transcripts, which are freely available on the ICJ website, I too am of the opinion that Malaysia will lose the case.

    The 'doctored' photograph doesn't help to instil creditability, and the offer to allow Singapore to continue to operate the Horsburgh Lighthouse (should Malaysia win the case) demonstrates that Malaysia is not fully committed to undertaking its responsibility for safety of navigation in what would be it sovereign territory.
    What a pity.

  9. guys... its not cheating. The pic was taken with a telephoto lens which of course gives a totally different perspective. Why telephoto? Bcos Singapore navy wont let us near the island of course..

  10. why is the words such as doctored used i dont comprehend at all? U guys know what u r talking about? You have done a digital forensic test in the photos? Stop behaving like retards

  11. klee, do you know what you are talking about?
    Have you ever been to that area?
    The view shown is not the normal view one gets from that vantage point on the southern side of Horsburgh Lighthouse.
    The question of ability to access should not be an issue.
    The photograph was probably taken using the Dolly Zoom (aka Hitchcock Zoom,Jaws Shot, Vertigo Zoom or Vertigo Effect, Trombone Shot, Contra-Zoom, Telescoping Zolly or Zido, Contra-zoom, Reverse Tracking, Zoom out/dolly in (or v. v.) technique and by using this means, there was deliberate perspective distortion.

    If there is deliberate distortion it is fair to say the photograph is 'doctored'

    Why are you so rude as to refer to the other commentators as "behaving like retards"?

    This also insults and demeans all those persons who are suffering from any type of learning disability or mental illness.

  12. Dear Sir,
    you assumed too much.

    1. I cant afford a personal yacht and yes I have not been there.
    2. Perspective changes as a result of using different focal length.
    Period. Its basic physics. (What focal length should we use then? 50mm
    on a 35mm slr? heheh.. Maybe we should borrow the exact lens used by
    the singaporeans ). A doctored photograph is a doctored photograph.
    You have a photograph then you doctor it..
    3. Singaporean would claim it as distortion. They know the malaysian
    team has put up a credible defense.
    4. No its not fair to assume bcos you dont know if it was done deliberately.
    5. So i suffers from learning disabilities? i cant call you names but
    you can stereotype me? heheh.. kita serupa la datuk?
    6. you guys are so blinded by your hatred for the present gov that
    you cant see the real issues and effort of batu putih. was it gani
    patail? or was it ilahu?

  13. Klee the issue is you were unnecessarily rude first by using the word "retard". You are right however about Singaporeans not allowing anybody close to the Island and the need for the lens.

    Pulau Batu Puteh is basically a lighthouse providing aid to navigation for vessels in a busy area. It became a problem because about 10 years ago the Singaporeans installed surveillance radar on the island. So it has escalated to security.When we said our claim will be difficult it
    has nothing to do on dislike of the current leadership. The problem with us is not caused by 4 years of wrong policy and neglect.It started much earlier than this.When the point is made that we may have a problem to win the case it is based on some knowledge.
    Before Pulau Batu Puteh we had another dispute over Sipadan Island in Sabah with Indonesia.It went to the International Courts and we won. We won fundamentally because we were occupying the Sipadan Island.We had a diving resort there. In this kind of disputed claims over Islands "occupation" is almost equal to "possesion" Singapore is now occupying Pulau Batu Puteh thats why we feel we will have a problem to win this case although historically it is part of Johore.
    I said in an earlier comment that we need a better civil service material as well. If Keel, you feel that we have world class people in our service so be it. I respect your views. All I know is most of them did not graduate from the top 200 universities of the world.

    Jack, from what I know the possession of the island will effect the maritime boundary between the 2 states. This is what the ovelapping claims in the South China Sea Spratlys is all about. In the South China Sea there are hundreds of reef and atolls being claimed by Indonesia,Malaysia,Vietnam,China etc.
    Why do they claim an island the size of a squash court? The answer is Under the Law Of The Sea Convention these island can have economic zones of 200 nautical miles around it.It is more complicated than this but I have simplified the concept for understanding. With the current price of Oil countries will go to war with these claims.
    In the case of PBPuteh the ownership of the island will come with maritime zones. Given Singapore's character you cannot discount they will not do reclaimation and make it bigger for other uses.When you fly across South China Sea on a clear day and you look down you will see some of these disputed islands are perfectly square in shape. These are man made islands.Therein lies the problem.
    As I said earlier with the exception of a few many of our team members are passengers in the Haque. The legal consultants are good. I think it is th same group we use for Pulau Sipadan. Despite my pessimism i pray they win.

  14. Get the Kra Canal off the drawing board, gentlemen.

    P.S. May I call you a retard too, klee? We obviously have one or two at the Hague. Just wondering if another stayed closer to home.

  15. klee Esq.
    I too do not own a personal yacht, but I have passed there many times in the course of my work.
    The focal length of the lens used is not the issue, the issue is that the photograph should, in order to be credible, show the same perspective view as would be seen by the human eye. It is obvious to anyone who has observed that view that the photograph in question has extreme perspective distortion, this can only have been done purposefully, since using a telephoto lens on a moving platform, such as ship or a boat is not an easy task.
    You say in your comment paragraph 5:"So i suffers from learning disabilities? i cant call you names butyou can stereotype me? heheh.. kita serupa la datuk?"
    This was in response to my comment:
    "This also insults and demeans all those persons who are suffering from any type of learning disability or mental illness."
    This sentence means that you insulted and belittled all those persons who have learning disabilities or mental illness, by using the derogatory word 'retards'. By writing what I did, I not infer that you suffer from either learning difficulties or mental illness.
    Furthermore in your comment in paragraph 6, you wrote:"you guys are so blinded by your hatred for the present gov that you cant see the real issues and effort of batu putih. was it gani patail? or was it ilahu?
    Why are you introducing politics, and other extraneousness matters into these post comments? No one else has done so.
    Your poor understanding of English is making you misunderstand what has been written.
    It is regrettable that due to this, it is not possible to sensibly engage in a meaningful exchange of comments with you in English.
    I therefore wish you well and may all you dreams come true.
    Goodbye to you, and in June 2008, it will be goodbye to Batu Puteh/Perdra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge too.

  16. Klee,

    I dont usually like to 'layan' rude comments but today is your lucky day.

    You are obviously a product of the system which is now consistently making us all look like retards in the international scene. If you cannot be civil to my guests, go and take your shit elsewhere.

  17. The Sign 'O The (Stupid) Times... Again, how low can we go to cock things up? If it was up to me I'd rope you guys in and send you over to the Hague --where I'm sure we'd fare better than Tetuan S.O. Albar & Co.

    When it come to M'sia Vs Singapore, it almost seems the gov't is ensuring its best to LOSE! Why can't we get the RIGHT people on board to tackle this? Doctored photos from a stupid blog? Is that all we got? Sheesh. To borrow a pun, it's no wonder the Singies blow us out of the water...

  18. Dear Ancient Mariner,

    I am posting for the first time here.I follow with interest the write-ups and blogs on the ICJ proceedings. A few points/facts to ponder :-

    1. The "doctored" photo was taken from a purported German blogger. See
    2. This blog was created one month ago and the photo was put up 4 days before the start of the oral proceedings.This was pointed out by Singapore's AG.
    3. In his blog,the German blogger admitted that he has not been to Malaysia and Singapore.
    4. A Singaporean blogger showed that the articles posted by this German fella were lifted off(plagiarised) wikipedia.
    5. Some posters in this German blog commented that the IP address of his blog was traced to Puchong!Read those comments personally. Unfortunately at the time of this writing, all comments in the blog were already taken down by our German blogger.

    This whole thing stinks.And I can't say that I can hold my head up even if we win ( am from Johor Baru ,incidentally).Let's fight to win by presenting indisputable facts and superior logic.Not by some sleight-of-hand tactics.We seem to have lost our bearings and I think I can trace it back to the year we lost it..1988.

  19. Pemerhati,

    Between Singapore and Malaysia, we won't have 200 nautical miles to talk about economic zones. I agree with you that the maritime boundary will move and with it, the control of the sea lanes nearby. Then the sea between the island and Singapore will now belong to Singapore? Oh my.

    In the case of Sipadan, I think there is no impact because the island is already quite far away from the main Borneo Island.


  20. Guy in the glass,

    Ofcourse there is no 200 miles economic zone for pulau Batu Puteh, as it is close to the mainland.
    What I am trying to explain countries claim very small islands because if this islands can be proven to support "population" then island can claim economic zone of 200 nautical miles.
    In addition Islands will also have "territorial waters" of 12 nautical miles which is equivalent to almost sovereignity in the waters. Singapore has actually excercised this power and if you approach the PB Puteh their navy ship will intercept within 12 nautical miles of the island.Because to them, that water is their territory.

  21. Pemerhati,

    Thanks. I read in wikipedia that the island is actually 54 km east of Singapore and only 14 km from the coast of Johor. So if the island is Singapore's territory, the boundary between Singapore and Malaysia will now be only 7km from Johor coast with respect to this island? Looks like we will lose some territorial waters as well. Previously, it is perceived. If the ICJ decides for Singapore, it will now be legal.


  22. Guy in the Glass,

    In a way you are right about the median line and hence the 7 nautical miles(not km ) on each side. However there are other "equitable" considerations for instance the island is very small and the mainland (peninsular Malaysia) is huge and thus the boundary will be in favour of the mainland.Under this consideration and argument it will not be the median line. But we shall wait and see.

  23. watch this!!


Dear Reader,

This blog promotes freedom of speech and I invite fair comment. This is not a chat room and I would appreciate if you could identify yourself. However, if you prefer to remain anonymous please note that remarks that are deemed grossly inappropriate, maliciously defamatory, extremely vulgar or ad hominem attacks (against my person) will be deleted.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.

The Ancient Mariner