Sunday, 25 May 2008

Pedra Branca / Batu Puteh / White Rock (the site of Horsburgh Lighthouse)

Case closed? Yes.

All done and dusted?
Not yet!

Horsburgh Lighthouse, as it is today (click on image to enlarge it)

The Foundation Stone of Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca Island, which was laid in the presence of Governor William J. Butterworth and several distinguished guests, took place at 1:00 pm, on 24th May 1850.

Description of the Foundation Stone

Inscribed on copper plate of the Foundation Stone are the words:

“In the year of Our Lord 1850 and in the 13th year of the reign of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland:
The Most Noble James Andrew, Marquis of Dalhousie, Kt., being Governor-General of British India:
The Foundation Stone of the Light-house to be erected on Pedra Branca,
and dedicated to the Memory of the Celebrated Hyrdographer JAMES HORSBURGH, F.R.S. was laid on the 24th day of May,
the anniversary of the Birth-day of Her Most Gracious Majesty,
by the Worshipful Master M. F. Davidson, Esq.,
and the Brethren of the Lodge Zetland in the East, no. 748,
In the presence of the Governor of the Straits Settlements,
and many of the British and Foreign Residents of Singapore.

J. T. Thomson,

1962 Map showing the location of Horsburgh Lighthouse

(click on image to enlarge it)


Dated 23rd May 2008

The full 81 page Judgement can be read HERE

and in the 19 page summary HERE

ICJ Press release (3 pages) HERE


"Subject of the Litigation

The Court was requested to determine whether sovereignty over:

(a) Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh;

(b) Middle Rocks;

(c) South Ledge,

belongs to Malaysia or the Republic of Singapore.

Geographical location and characteristics

Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh

is a granite island, measuring 137 m long, with an average width of 60 m and covering an area of about 8,560 sq m at low tide. It is situated at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Singapore, at the point where the Straits open up into the South China Sea. Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh is located at 1° 19' 48" N and 104° 24' 27" E. It lies approximately 24 nautical miles to the east of Singapore, 7.7 nautical miles to the south of the Malaysian state of Johor and 7.6 nautical miles to the north of the Indonesian island of Bintan.

The names Pedra Branca and Batu Puteh mean “white rock” in Portuguese and Malay respectively. On the island stands Horsburgh lighthouse, which was erected in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Middle Rocks and South Ledge are the two maritime features closest to Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh. Middle Rocks is located 0.6 nautical miles to the south and consists of two clusters of small rocks about 250 m apart that are permanently above water and stand 0.6 to 1.2 m high. South Ledge, at 2.2 nautical miles to the south-south-west of Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, is a rock formation only visible at low-tide.

At the eastern entrance to the Straits of Singapore there are three navigational channels, namely North Channel, Middle Channel (which is the main shipping channel) and South Channel.

Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge lie between Middle Channel and South Channel.

(For the general geography of the area, see sketch-map No. 1 and for the location of Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, see sketch-map No. 2.)


(1) By twelve votes to four,

Finds that sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to the Republic of Singapore;

(2) By fifteen votes to one,

Finds that sovereignty over Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia;

(3) By fifteen votes to one,

Finds that sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located."

Now that the said judgement has been made, the demarcation of the international borders and territorial waters needs to be done, this is vital at it will not only confirm the ownership of South Ledge, but will also clarify which waters can be accessed and fished by fishing vessels of Malaysia and Singapore, as well as those of Indonesia

One also needs to take into account the territorial waters of Indonesia when demarcating the territorial waters around Perdra Branca/Batu Puteh, Middle rocks and South Ledge,.

The demarcation and drawing of the boundaries of the territorial waters will no doubt be a lengthy and complex procedure, which in my opinion should be begun immediately.

Mariners transiting as well as approaching the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait will be glad that the operation of the Horsburgh Lighthouse will not be affected in any way by the judgement.

Ad iudicium

-To judgement; to common sense


MIGS-SABAH said...

yJK's Digest No. 9 of May 2008 (338- of 2008) Surrender at symbolic loss of Pulau Batu Puteh
All about PBP.
1) The loss of Pulau Batu Puteh (PBP) - 12:4.
The loss of PBP is like raising the white flag in any conflict. But it is not an end yet when the financial loss in bringing up this ICJ case is substantial especially the loser may have to be held responsible for this debacle. How much did the costs add up on both sides of the tip of the Peninsula Malaysia? Likely to be up to half a billion Ringgit - down the drain again. Kapal Singh was accusing the Government of the ill advice to go in to win back the PBP. I would say the illegitimate Government was 'sleeping' over the whole episode as it had not done its homework and relying on emotion. Was it the strategy of the island state to get even with 1965's event and Malaysia was trapped finally with the finality of the decision of ICJ? The illegitimate Government and its advisers would not listen to whistle blowers on any issues and that is on the way of the white flag for the nation - a backlash of ill treating Sabah.
2) Ligitan and Sipadan could be the impetus to go ICJ for PBP.
I think the win of Ligitan & Sipadan case with Indonesia could have inspired the stupid national leaders to go on with PBP. L&S was won on the active administrative effort on the islands by the Sabah's Government for a long time while Indonesia just remain passive although L&S are in the global line for Indonesia. So if we assess the grounds of winning L&S, how can we ever win back PBP? Now the stupid leaders are moaning for what - win- win scenario? Malaysia is only worth fishing rights over Middle Rock islands while Singapore got the pearl of the region and that is a surrender phenomenon.
3) What is the committee to resolve ICJ's decision on PBP?
Now a new committee is to be formed to resolve the decision of ICJ. Was such a similar joint committee done prior to the case going to ICJ? Who are now holding on the straw? May be it is the start of conflict post ICJ's decision as a way to divert attention in drama of the loss.

4) The South Ledge Island
Why did not the ICJ give a specific or clearer decision on that South Ledge Island? Who had over looked that and the vague result happens? Would there be another expensive case when Indonesia can bring Singapore and Malaysia to ICJ? Could South Ledge Island be claimable by Indonesia and since Indonesia was not a party to this trial, the decision was vague? Unlike the intervention by Philippines on L&S, Indonesia did not doing anything on South Ledge Island - maybe the hurts on L&S was too much for it. Since Indonesia was not a party to this '3 islands' case, ICJ would not rule on South Ledge hence held in suspense.
5) What is next?
There are still a few islands to be disputed such as Spratly Islands and the Ambalat. What is Malaysia going to do about that? Both these groups of Islands are very near to Sabah, hence Sabah must do something about this and not wait for the others to sit on them.

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red white said...

Singapore won big. PBP is an island while Middle Rock is a marine feature. Malaysia lost big.

mindful mariner said...

migs-sabah, thanks for your comments.

red white, your comments are noted, however I cannot agree with your narrow point of view, Singapore retained Pedra Branca Island, Malaysia gained Middle Rocks, whilst the sovereignty of South Ledge is still undecided.
There were winners and losers.
The ICJ weighed the facts of the case and the judgement was made.
Ad iudicium
-To judgement; to common sense