Friday, December 31, 2021

Putrajaya wants Pulau Batu Puteh issue to be heard in camera

Putrajaya wants Pulau Batu Puteh issue to be heard in camera

A federal counsel said the documents were classified under the Official Secrets Act as sensitive issues were involved, especially Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with Singapore. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya is seeking a protection order that classified documents leading to its decision to withdraw a review application over the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh be confined to those involved in the suit brought by a man.

The government also wants the High Court to have the trial or any interlocutory proceedings heard in camera.

In the application filed on Nov 29, it said all documents that would be submitted as exhibits must also be sealed from public access.

The government said the materials could only be revealed to lawyers, witnesses and parties who the court felt should have access.

“If necessary, the documents should be under the custody of the judge handling the case,” it said in a document sighted by FMT.

Senior federal counsel Alfian Yang Amri, who affirmed an affidavit in support of the application, said the documents were classified under the Official Secrets Act as sensitive issues were involved, especially Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with Singapore.

“If these documents are revealed to unauthorised third parties, it could affect international negotiations between the two nations,” he said.

Alfian said the order, if granted, would not prejudice the plaintiff, Mohd Hatta Sanuri, since the relevant documents will still be produced in court.

“The revelation of the contents of documents during proceedings will answer all the questions raised by the plaintiff,” he added.

The High Court will hear the application on Jan 31 after asking all parties involved to file in written submissions.

Hatta, from Tanjung Karang, Selangor, wants a declaration that former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the government committed the tort of misfeasance in public office over the issue.

In his amended statement of claim filed in October, Hatta wanted the current government to revive the application or look into other options for the matter to be heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The case originates from a territorial dispute over several islets at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Straits, namely Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

In 2008, the ICJ decided that Pulau Batu Puteh, also known as Pedra Branca, belonged to Singapore, Middle Rocks to Malaysia and South Ledge to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located.

In June 2017, Malaysia applied to the ICJ to request for an interpretation of the judgment.

Former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali then said the review would serve as a basis for the maintenance of orderly and peaceful relations between the two countries in the management of their respective maritime zones and airspace in the future.

However, this application was withdrawn in May 2018 after Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya following its victory in the 14th general election.

Putrajaya said it abandoned the idea of seeking a review of Pulau Batu Puteh’s sovereignty after weighing the views of foreign legal consultants.

In its defence, the government said it felt the review should be discontinued in the interest of the nation and also due to cost implications.

In his statement of claim filed in May, Hatta said the government had not provided an explanation on why it withdrew the application despite fresh evidence that favoured Malaysia on dominion over the island, which is half the size of a football field.

He is seeking, among others, for the defendants to give an explanation for the withdrawal and for a declaration that they had been negligent and violated the trust placed on them by citizens.

Hatta wanted the defendants to pay a minimum of RM10 million in compensation to each Malaysian for the loss of the island.

1 comment:

  1. If Mahathir had agreed to withdraw the application for a review, it is very likely for very good reasons.

    Because, given his hatred for Singapore, if there was ever a miniscule chance to succeed, he would have gone ahead with the application. If nothing else, just to irritate Singapore.

    So, this suit is not likely to succeed but interesting nonetheless. I wonder if the court will agree to conduct the suit in camera.