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Johore Umno leaders might inadvertently condemn their own government over Pulau Batu Putih

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COMMENT BY YB PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

Johore Umno leaders might inadvertently condemn their own government over Pulau Batu Putih
There is no end to the comedy drama on the lost island of Pulau Batu Putih. While the report on the island off the coast of Johore is yet to be finalised by the task force headed by the former attorney general Apandi Ali, there are already talks from Johore Umno leaders in taking legal suits against those responsible for the loss of the island in 2008.
In this year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognised the sovereignty of Singapore over the island. Subsequently, Malaysia filed an appeal but was withdrawn by the PH government under the former prime minister Mahathir Mohammed citing reasons of cost and the prospect of not winning the case as advised by experts.

The Sultan of Johore has been upset over the loss of the island to Singapore.He has already received the interim report of the task force on the island. Meanwhile, the fact that Mahathir had walked out on being heard by the task force has upset some Umno leaders.

The former prime minister Najib Tun Razak said that Mahathir should have been a “jantan” to appear before the committe chaired by none other than Apandi.

It was Mahathir who fired Apandi after he became the prime minister in 2018. Why should he appear in from of the person he sacked seems puzzling. The task force has no legal standing nor it has any enforcement powers.

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It was instituted among others not to delve deep into why Malaysia lost the island, but a political mechanism to shift the blame on the short-lived PH government in general and Mahathir in particular.

As I have earlier said, Mahathir did the right thing of walking out of the hearing. There was no reason why he should appear before the panel to condemn himself.

Umno might be serious contender in the coming GE15, but it lacks the backbone to reinvent itself amidst allegations of corruption and financial misdeeds in the party.

Some of its senior leaders might be jailed in the future. Umno leaders in Johore particularly the newly minted Menteri Besar Hafiz Onn and the speaker Puad Zarkashi are crying for blood over the loss of Pulau Batu Putih.

While Hafiz threatened legal action against those responsible for the loss of the island, Puad has said that he would sue Mahathir. As though, Mahathir will be cowed over these threats.

But unfortunately, the Johore Umno leaders are trying to be heroes in the anticipation of the GE15. Maybe it is about time they did some research as to who was responsible for the loss of the island to Singapore in 2008.

Since the application to the ICJ was a joint one, Malaysia had no choice but to accept the verdict. Malaysia appealed but there was a slight chance it could succeed.

Right or wrong, Mahathir might have withdrawn the appeal as advised without anticipating the political consequences. Politicaly, the decision should have been left to the good office of the ICJ.
Since the Johore Umno leaders are forming a line to take legal action against those responsible for the loss of the island, maybe they should explain why in September 1953, the Johore state secretary in a letter to the British colonial secretariat in Singapore, withdrew Johore’s claim over the island of Pulau Batu Putih.

It would make sense for the gung-ho Umno leaders like Hafiz and Puad to re-examine the state’s history in relation to the controversial rock island of Pulau Batu Putih.

If the concept of Terra Nullis (notion of non-habitation) could not even be refuted in the legal arguments before the ICJ, I wonder about the seriousness of the Malaysian legal team.

Umno leaders in Johore must be careful in their euphoria of initiating legal action as they might inadvertently condemn the very state government they are representing.