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The Significance of Middle Rock

THE following information is a contribution to the ongoing debate surrounding the issue of Batu Puteh. It relates to some additional facts which all Malaysians should be aware of.

The debaters on the issue of Batu Puteh failed to mention one important thing when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down its judgement in the year 2008 concerning the case of Pedra Branca/Batu Puteh between Malaysia and Singapore.

The ICJ awarded Malaysia sovereign ownership of Middle Rocks although the ICJ awarded the sovereign ownership of Pedra Branca to Singapore.

This means Malaysia won a piece of territory more valuable than Pedra Branca.

Middle Rocks has since been developed into a modern maritime base, capable of berthing coastal patrol ships of the Malaysian Navy.

The size of the Middle Rocks maritime base is at least three times larger than the size of the Pedra Branca lighthouse.

When debating the 2008 ICJ Judgement, the debates tended to focus only on Batu Puteh/Pedra Branca.

They do not seem to quite appreciate the impact of the big win Malaysia scored over Middle Rocks, and how significant that win really is in terms of maritime entitlements gained by Malaysia as a result.

The win by Malaysia involves not only gaining a larger piece of territory but also gains in terms of rights and privileges to be derived under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In terms of international law, the win over Middle Rocks has conferred upon Malaysia equal standing vis-à-vis Pedra Branca in that maritime domain.

In terms of geography, Middle Rocks has effectively enclosed Pedra Branca between the Johor coast and Middle Rocks itself.

As it now stands, after having thus enclosed Pedra Branca between itself and the Johor coast, Middle Rocks has thereby reduced Pedra Branca’s share of territorial waters to less than 12 nautical miles.

This is the case when the sea boundaries in the area are equally divided between Malaysia and Singapore, northwards, westwards and southwards of Pedra Branca.

In fact, all Singapore vessels travelling from the island of Singapore to Pedra Branca will have to traverse Malaysian territorial waters before those vessels can get there.

By Tan Sri AB Kadir Mohamad, former foreign affairs ministry, secretary-general. 

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