Regional security expert Ganesh Sahathevan said the recent Malaysian claims on the tiny rock in the middle of the sea, Pedra Branca, has little to do with sentiments in Malaysia.
He also said the claims will not benefit Malaysia since Putrajaya would be better off developing the Middle Rocks.
In 1993, a dispute erupted between Malaysia and Singapore over the ownership of the Middle Rocks, South Ledge and Pedra Branca.
The matter was settled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled that Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. The ICJ altogether ruled that Pedra Branca should belong to Singapore, resulting in massive anti-Singapore sentiments in Malaysia.
The status of South Ledge remains unresolved.
“So-going back to Pedra Branca-another way of thinking about it is why do you think Malaysia has not done anything with Middle Rocks since 2008 when the ICJ decided Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia? “Remember Middle Rocks sits below Pedra Branca, so do something there and you can in a way limit whatever territory Singapore gains via Pedra Branca,” said Sahathevan to The Independent.
It is quite obvious that Malaysia will gain more on Middle Rocks, but nothing has ever been done, said Sahathevan.
Singapore kowtow to China
The Independent asked Sahathevan whether the Malaysian claims on Pedra Branca, in which China seems to have an apparent hand, will jeopardise the High Speed Rail (HSR) project between Malaysia and Singapore?
He said there will be no impact at all, because Singapore will always kowtow to China.
“Beijing has had plenty of experience with Singapore to know that Singapore will always kowtow.
“Recall Suchou incident. Also the recent Terrex issue. In other words Beijing knows from experience that Singapore will accept anything China does.
“China will take as much at it wants without regard for anyone,” he said.
About the Suchou incident, he said in essence, it was a massive loss for Singapore. Losses that even Lee Kuan yew admitted.
“But now it is talked of as some kind of shining example of how Singapore & China work so well together,” he said.
Electoral Ploy by Najib?
The Pedra Branca issue is also seen by some as a ploy by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to stir sentiments in what is said to be an election year in Malaysia. Sahathevan dismissed such claims.
“But consider this. Would it not be more straightforward to build on Middle Rocks? Would that not go down better with voters, given how dramatic it would be? And-was that not what former Minister in Najib’s cabinet Rais Yatim proposed in 2008? Finally-there is an Utusan article taht suggests to me that even the ruling United Malays National Organisation or UMNO is not convinced by this latest legal manoeuvre by Malaysia.”
Sahathevan said for sure if the fresh Pedra Branca claims were to stir up nationalistic sentiments in Kuala Lumpur, but then, that happens all the time.
“Again go back to that Utusan article. Why is the newspaper so pessimistic?
“Where is the normal chest thumping machoism? You may want to look at the New Straits Times and I think Malay Mail also, which reported from 2003 when Malaysia under Mahathir decided to take the Pedra Branca matter to the ICJ.
“The sentiment portrayed was very different then.”
Utusan is a pro-government mouthpiece in Malay language.