Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Win-Win Decision

(Horsburgh Lighthouse: Click to enlarge)

I have always believed that it was more of a dispute over "territorial waters" than just over a few rocks and hard places in the middle of the ocean.

Malaysia has always been suspicious of Singapore's motives and intentions. Yesterday's International Courts of Justice decision to award sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh a.k.a. Pedra Blanca to Singapore by default and the adjacent Middle Rocks to Malaysia must have put paid to Singapore's "territorial ambitions", if she had any. For Singapore, this simply means that their navy gun-boats cannot now prevent Malaysian fishermen from fishing in an indeed fertile fishing grounds where they have done for centuries, or commence reclamation works in the area without consulting Malaysian authorities.

Singapore can now rightfully claim ownership of the island, conveniently referred to as "Horsburgh" by us mariners and maintain and operate the Horsburgh lighthouse until doomsday, in the interest of navigational safety. Coincidently, Singapore is also currently operating and maintaining by treaty at their own costs, the lighthouse on Pulau Pisang, off the west coast of Johor. This is perfectly acceptable for Malaysia, since Singapore collects a major portion of "light dues" from merchant ships passing through both the Malacca and Singapore Straits.

A truly win-win situation indeed.


  1. Sir
    Are you humouring us, or is this an attempt to diffuse the negative repercussions?

  2. capt.. I personally think its a loss to Malaysia. On the other other hand, we lost it some 60 years ago, not protesting when Spore put up their communications and security post there. I just hope we dont lose Pu Pisang the same way some 100 yrs down the road.. due to some laid back officer issuing a letter of 'no ownership claim'. Another thing.. do we really have any real maritime legals eagles in Malaysia? Its about time we developed a pool of them especially on UNCLOS and maritime territory claims.. not to mention in the other associated areas eg IMO conventions, maritime trade etc. Oh yes.. the score now is Spore 2 Msia 0..the earlier loss being Msia's inability to stop Spore's reclamation off Pu Tekong.

  3. Asmk Capt,
    Just came from Datuk Ron’s Blog. A sad day for us Malaysians. So near yet so far.

    Ref to your posting “For Singapore, this simply means that their navy gun-boats cannot now prevent Malaysian fishermen from fishing in an indeed fertile fishing grounds where they have done for centuries, or commence reclamation works in the area without consulting Malaysian authorities” ....
    Just want to confirm whether it’s a ‘can’ or ‘cannot’, in the above para? Thanks and have a nice weekend.

  4. aMiR:

    What do you think?

    kak ainon@besut:

    Cannot. Their harassment of our fishermen finally awoke our govt from deep slumber.

  5. Dear Captain,

    What would the next future be? expecially regarding our Johoreans local fishermen? and what is about Pulau Pisang?.. are we going to lose again... well, I wonder why didnt we sent big guns at the ICJ like the Singaporeans delegates, they sent their Vice President and Chief Judge, we.... just our AG? pity...!
    any, thanks Capt, for the good info on the Pulau Batu Puteh details photo. best wishes.

  6. Salam YA,
    I personally feel that we should take over the running of Pu Pisang Light House long time ago and it’s not acceptable at all for Malaysia to keep allowing Singaporean to man the place on whatever ground. The light dues they collected got nothing to do with this, we are able and capable in every sense to manage the lighthouse. We must realize by now that our effort to use Pu Pisang Lighthouse to strengthen the Batu Putih claim doesn't hold water.

    The problem with us is that we always compromise with others on our right and even our land, by the time we wake up they were both gone.

  7. jaflam:

    Its really up to you Johorians, who you must admit were in the habit of "giving away" our southern islands to the Brits. heh heh.

    Look at China. They only leased Hong Kong and Macau and now own some very expensive real estate.

  8. Dear Captain

    Truthfully, I consur with Amir. Is it a way to convey ur interpretation of ICJ ruling whilst maintaining in the good books of the Minister of Information (whom u have the pleasure of being invited for dinner) as per ur previous blog dated 22nd May '08 ?

    I did not see the logic of 'win-win' situation when the all the disputed areas belong to Johor, in the first place. And does the acting State Secretary' letter in 1953 (as reported in Malaysiakini) stands legally when at that time Singapore is considered as part of Johor ?

    Till then...G'nite M'sia...wherever u are...

  9. nightcaller:

    " that time Singapore is considered as part of Johor" Huh?

    By 1953, Singapore which was sold for peanuts by Johor royalty was already a British Crown colony which even included Christmas Island (off the Indonesian coast).

    What you have "given away", you cannot demand back. Buruk siku, kata orang tua.

  10. nightcaller:

    On the subject of "giving away" islands, in 1957 S'pore Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock also 'gave away' Christmas Island to Australia, which proved to be his downfall.

    He later moved to Malaysia, became a Muslim and ... thats another story.

  11. PakCik Jam,

    We don't have many big guns left in the country.

    Our 'ammunitions' have gone down south and contributed to their human resources. Just check out how many M'sians are working in S'pore.

    A price to pay for the brain drain

  12. Dear YA,

    Perhaps, it'd be appropriate for us to actually READ all the 81-pages of the judgement by the ICJ and then conclude WHY they came to such a decision.

    I say: M'sia only lost "face", but, gained more rights associated to "territorial waters" privileges that were absent ever since S'pore decided to prevent any "incursions" by M'sia into "their" waters upon 'em claiming that Pedra Branca - PB (which, legally, is the name to be referred to henceforth)!

    Perhaps, too, it'd be best to refer how we "won" Sipadan & Ligitan?

    We exercised "effective sovereignty" (i.e. having total command & control) over both islands, much to the chagrin of our Indonesian neighbours.

    Similar adjudication was done in PB's case.

    S'pore did NOT exercise command & control on Middle Rocks, so, they gave it to M'sia, and, taking into account the very close proximity of these Rocks to PB, anything that S'pore wishes to undertake wrt expansion, exploration, etc. in the vicinity of the installation will have to get the tacit approval of M'sia!

    ICJ effectively checkmated our S'porean neighbours (and, to think that they were the ones who initially INCLUDED Middle Rocks & South Ledge into the equation)!

    So, in my mind, let's leave emotions and nostalgia OUT (cos' we NEVER "exercised" our sovereignty over PB for nearly 130 years!) and relish this NEW "rights" that we have "gained" by being able to do more "legally" in waters close to PB than we were able to do previously!

    But, I'd be very interested to know HOW much it cost us to present our case to the ICJ.

  13. Cap,

    You have a delightfully wicked sense of humour! But thanks for the history lessons tho.

  14. Capt Abdul Aziz:

    Many thanks for yr input, bro.

    Perhaps some of our politicians and young bloggers need to check their facts before making damn fools of themselves. I'd also be interested to know how much the ICJ proceedings cost us and hope someone can raise this in Parliament.

  15. Capt

    In ur response, u wrote "On the subject of "giving away" islands, in 1957 S'pore Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock also 'gave away' Christmas Island to Australia, which proved to be his downfall."

    Will the same be "applicable" in Malaysia and hasten the demise of ...?

    Till then...G'nite Capt...wherever u are...

  16. Hi Skipper,

    The point is still this: We lost sovereignty of that island !

    If it had been natural erosion, that is inevitable lah.

    That's just the point, mate !

    My view from the crow nest.

  17. Your wicked sense of humour aside, I'm now convinced that you're not a spin doctor. Whether it is really a win-win, only time will tell.

  18. As a Johorean Im am angry n utterly disgusted with the whole episode. We were represented by half-cooked legal teams who even resorted to cheating. Let me tell u something we Johorean know very well, if u want to take on Singapore, its not enough to be doubly prepared. We had never even won an argument!!!

    I call all malaysians especially Johorean to demand the resignation of Hamid AlBar, Gani Patail n rest of teams......

  19. thanks kapt for a god wrapup, and also some"insider" inputs from your specialist commenters. I posted your post at -- any royalties I korek (3X) will be shared 50-50 or so-so wit' thee! I buy tehtarik and you kambing -- is mindfool mariner kambing2?

  20. Capt:
    Now i understand why it is said to be a win win situation. The ICJ are quite fair afterall. A big lesson can be learnt from here.

  21. Singapore retained Pedra Branca Island, Malaysia gained Middle Rocks, whilst the sovereignty of South Ledge is still undecided.

    There is much work ahead, and many hours of painstaking negotiations are still required before the territorial boundaries are mutually agreed upon, Indonesian will doubtless have a say when the demarcation lines of sovereignty are finally drawn.

    There were winners and losers, I suppose that, at a pinch one could even charitably say it was sort of a 'win-win' outcome.

    The ICJ carefully weighed all the presented evidence, determined the facts of the case and the judgement was made; very wisely if I may be permitted to say.

    Many including myself had predicted that the winner of Pedra Branca would be Singapore, and that they would take all, but the wise judges
    decided the just, sensible and honourable way was as it was judged.

    As for me, I find the judgement to be ideal given the circumstances of the case.

    Notwithstanding all of that mariners of the world will doubtless rejoice that Horsburgh Light will burn reliably and uninterrupted, ever brightly, and they will also will be glad the Singapore Strait VTMS will continue assist them in their voyages.

    Bon Voyage to all.

    Ad iudicium
    -To judgement; to common sense

  22. Good on you Capt Abdul Aziz. You got the point. I agree totally that those who want to comment about this ICJ decision should READ the decision ( even the summary would be sufficient reading ). Minimum. they must read your comment before posting their own. Hundreds of Johor fishermen will immediately benfit from the ICJ decision. Now Malaysia can do on Middle Rocks anything Singapore does on Pedra Branca.Singapore cannot now expand Pedra Braca as they planned. Singapore can claim very much less waters around Pedra Branca. Indeed,Malaysia may have lost Pedra Branca but it has effectively checkmated Singapore there! The Malaysian Team did a very good job defending an extremely difficult case to defend. Dont woory, those who understand will also know that eventually South Ledge too wull become part of Malaysian territory.

  23. Capt,
    After being alerted of the situation of the banana kind....I got the sat pix, and its more than bananas....

  24. Tony,

    According to the treaty, S'pore built and can operate the Pulau Pisang lighthouse in perpetuity. i.e., "as long as she wants to" but is not permitted any other activity on the island.

    You will note that this is the same condition given to KTM for all their land in S'pore including railway station in Tg Pagar which are definitely worth more than P. Pisang.

    So if we can ask S'pore to get out of P.Pisang, by the same token they can also kick KTM out. I also believe we "gave away" our old navy base in Woodlands without any compensations.

  25. dear capt .. all over the world lighthouses are becoming heritage sites with the advent of electronic aids to navigation. I understand the Dutch are in the midst of decommissioning several lighthouses along their coastline and are planning to even do away with light dues. My suggestion would be for Malaysia to build an alternate light/ beacon/ ATON somewhere else on Pu Pisang offering the same navigational safety features if not better and then evict the Sporeans. Spore cannot then complain that mariners and ships are at risk and their stranglehold can be broken . Of course, we have to spend some moneylah!! I think we are collecting enough lightdues from ships calling Port Klang & PTP alone to fund several of these structures.

  26. Dear Subra:

    Its really not about technology but about ancient treaties with which our forefathers signed away our rights etc.

    We now have to do serious damage control and it doesnt help if our politicians cannot tell their backsides from their elbows what they are talking about.

  27. Dear Ancient Mariner,

    Your take on this sorry issue is refreshing and gives a balanced view however aggrieved some of our people including politicians may feel.

    I only wish we do not always give the perception that laws, regulations, agreements, treaties etc. can be thrown into the dustbin whenever we feel like it; and then find out that unilateral action does not work on people who are able to defend their rights.

    Ignorance and the inability to learn from mistakes seems to be our greatest failings.


  28. An assessment of the ICJ decision made by Datuk Deva Ridzuan in Din Merican's blog provides additional perspective on this issue.



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