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Thursday, October 09, 2003


Land Reclamation--I win, I win

Land starved Singapore has been carrying out land reclamation off Tuas (a piece of reclaimed land) and off Pulau Tekong, an island in the Johore Straits, between Singappore and Malaysia. Malaysia claims that this reclamation work violated its territorial waters and was damaging Malaysia's beaches, shipping and fisheries. Both the nations agreed to arbitration over this problem.

As a first stage, Malaysia had asked the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order Singappore to stop the projects on Tekong island and Tuas until the court's arbitration tribunal ruled on the issue. Yesterday the tribunal ruled that Singappore could continue its reclamation work, but emphasised that Singappore should ensure the projects had no irreparable effects on the rights of Malaysia or the marine environment. The tribunal also ordered the two countries to set up a panel of independent experts to monitor the works and issue its findings within a year and the two countries must exchange 'on a regular basis' information on the works.

The reactions by the 2 nations to the tribunal decision appears to be in opposite directions. 'Kiasu" Singappore has claimed victory by saying that Malaysia has failed in its bid to stop reclamation and that Singappore has won Round 1, see this. Malaysia begs to differ and the Star as reported this under the heading :: "Save the Straits: Tribunal directs Singappore not to harm environment with reclamation work.". Bernama has also given the slant that Malaysia has gained a point by saying :: ' Malaysia has been granted provisional measures in the case concerning Singappore's land reclamation projects in the Straits of Johore'. Further our PM wants Singappore to stop the reclamation work now pending a final decision by the tribunal. Our foreign minister had to chip in, so as not to be forgotten, he is reported to have said :: " The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) directing Singapore not to conduct land reclamation that may cause irreparable damage to Malaysia as a great success for Malaysia. So the merry-go-round continues. Basically, in reality, the tribunal has returned a decision which takes the 2 nations back to square one but each has decided on its own spin. We await the final decision by the arbitration panel.


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