ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 25, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 52

Malaysia calls for calm after ICJ gives islet to Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Saturday (AP) - Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has urged Malaysians to remain calm over an international court ruling awarding sovereignty of a disputed island to neighbor Singapore, news reports said Saturday. ''Any discussion to be held or action to be taken with Singapore must be done in a peaceful manner and with understanding from both sides,'' Abdullah was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

Aides traveling with Abdullah could not immediately be contacted. The International Court of Justice on Friday gave Singapore ownership of a two-acre (0.8 hectare) island off the southern tip of peninsula Malaysia that houses a strategic lighthouse.

The island, at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait, is listed on most maps as Pedra Branca but is known by Malaysia as Pulau Batu Puteh. It lies about 40 miles (65 kilometres) from Singapore, but only seven miles (10 kilometres) off the Malaysian coast.

The two former British colonies were united in 1963, but split amid bitter political discord two years later. Their usually cordial ties occasionally still turn testy. Abdullah said he plans to meet with the sultan of Malaysia's southernmost Johor state to explain the outcome, The Star reported. ''There will be people who will be emotional, especially in Johor,'' Abdullah reportedly said.

In its ruling, the U.N. court gave Malaysia ownership of a smaller, uninhabited rock cluster. Sovereignty over a third tiny island, in overlapping territorial waters, should be decided by the two countries themselves, the court said.

The dispute erupted after Malaysia published a map in 1979 referring to the lighthouse island as its territory for the first time in modern history. The two countries agreed in 2003 to submit the case to the U.N. court.The court ruled in favor of Singapore's argument that it had exercised sovereign powers over the rock since the lighthouse opened in 1851, with no protest from Malaysia until 30 years ago. Singapore operates the lighthouse.

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