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S Jayakumar not surprised Malaysia withdrew Pedra Branca cases

FORMER deputy prime minister S Jayakumar said he is not surprised that the new Malaysian government has withdrawn its applications on Pedra Branca, as both cases brought by Malaysia had a "very weak legal basis".

In fact, he was very surprised when the former Malaysian government brought these two cases, said Prof Jayakumar in a statement on Thursday.

Malaysia had filed an application on Feb 2, 2017 to revise a 2008 judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which awarded sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore.

On June 30, Malaysia filed a second application to request that the ICJ interpret that same judgment.

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The ICJ will remove both cases from its list, after Malaysia informed it on Monday that it would discontinue the proceedings it had initiated earlier, and Singapore agreed.

"Our foreign counsel, as well as we in the Singapore team, felt that Malaysia's cases had very weak legal basis," said Prof Jayakumar, who led the Republic's Pedra Branca team.

"We were very confident of our own legal case on both applications. Therefore, I am not surprised that the new Malaysian government had proposed to discontinue both these cases. This has put the matter to rest amicably."

Prof Jayakumar is one of three key figures who helmed the original Pedra Branca team that argued the original case before the ICJ in 2007. The other two are Tommy Koh, and former chief justice Chan Sek Keong.

The trio and Attorney-General Lucien Wong led the legal team to prepare for the latest cases, which were initially scheduled to be heard over eight days from June 11 to 22 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Prof Jayakumar said all members of the team were fully prepared for the oral hearings at the ICJ.

"Some members of the team are disappointed that the cases will not be heard," he said. "They had put in a lot of work and were looking forward to arguing our cases before the ICJ judges."

Prof Jayakumar also gave four reasons why he was cheered by the way the Singapore team worked on the Pedra Branca cases.

He said he and senior lawyers such as Prof Koh, Mr Chan and Mr Wong worked very well with younger international lawyers.

He praised the legal acumen and "total dedication" of the younger lawyers in the team, and said Singapore now has a new generation of highly competent international lawyers.

"We are in good hands when similar international legal disputes arise in the future," he added.

Prof Jayakumar also hailed the close collaboration between the Attorney-General's Chambers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, National Archives of Singapore, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Defence and other agencies.

Finally, he also lauded Singapore's foreign legal counsel - Alain Pellet, Rodman Bundy and Daniel Muller. Prof Pellet and Mr Bundy acted for Singapore in the original Pedra Branca case.

"All of them had high praise for the younger lawyers in the team," Prof Jayakumar said.

THE STRAITS TIMES