PM, govt sued over Pulau Batu Puteh sovereignty issue

·3-min read
PM, govt sued over Pulau Batu Puteh sovereignty issue
PM, govt sued over Pulau Batu Puteh sovereignty issue

The prime minister and the Malaysian government are being hauled to court for the country’s 2018 withdrawal of an application to review the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) award of sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore.

Malaysian citizen Mohd Hatta Sanuri filed the writ of summons at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on May 28, listing the prime minister (who is not named) and the Malaysian government as first and second defendants respectively.

At the time of filing in May, the premiership was held by Muhyiddin Yassin. However, last month, he stepped down and Ismail Sabri Yaakob was subsequently appointed as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister.

In late May 2018, following the 14th general election (GE14) victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, the then Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led government had withdrawn its review application against the ruling by ICJ, which is UN's highest court.

The Singaporean government reportedly said that it was “happy” that Malaysia had informed ICJ on May 28 that year that it would be withdrawing the review application.

The main rocky outcrop -- no more than half the size of a football field -- is known as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia and Pedra Branca in Singapore. It is located about 15km off Peninsular Malaysia’s southern coast.

According to a copy of the statement of claim seen by Malaysiakini, plaintiff Hatta, 45, contended that he is suing on behalf of himself and 32 million other Malaysian citizens.

According to him, all Malaysians were affected by the defendants’ unilateral act of withdrawal of the ICJ review application without first tabling and discussing it in Parliament.

Hatta claimed that the government until now has not given an explanation for the withdrawal of the ICJ review application in light of alleged new evidence that favours Malaysia’s side in the bid for sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh.

“It is very unfair for the plaintiff when the review application was withdrawn just like that without reason or explanation, as though the issue of claim over Pulau Batu Puteh is a trivial matter and can just be let go or forgotten like that, when in fact it involves the sovereignty of Malaysia.

"The plaintiff, as well as all 32 million Malaysian citizens, deserve to get an explanation over the division to withdraw from reviewing the (ICJ) ruling and not continuing the proceeding in a unilateral way and quietly, without any public debate or discussion with all Malaysian citizens before making such (withdrawal) decision,” Hatta contended.

Among the court orders sought by the plaintiff is for the two defendants to give a written explanation on the reason for the withdrawal of the ICJ review application and for a declaration that they have been negligent and breached the trust of all Malaysian citizens.

Seeking RM10mil compensation

Hatta seeks a declaration for the defendants to pay around RM10 million compensation (or based on further court deliberation) to Malaysian citizens, calculated based on the land value of Pulau Batu Puteh and economic loss incurred by all Malaysians, including him.

He is also seeking an order, among others, for the defendants to reveal in detail the total cost spent by the government to prepare the ICJ review application on Feb 3, 2017 until the defendants suddenly retracted it as confirmed by ICJ on June 1, 2018.

Via a Memorandum of Appearance filed on Aug 26 and seen by Malaysiakini, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has entered an appearance in the legal action on behalf of both defendants.

According to the online cause list at ecourtservices.kehakiman.gov.my, the matter is fixed for online case management before the Kuala Lumpur High Court registry on Monday next week.

Hatta is represented by law firm Messrs Mohaji, Hazury & Ismail.

Malaysiakini is attempting to reach the plaintiff and defendants’ legal teams for a response on the matter.

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