Pedra Branca, Singapore

Pedra Branca, Singapore

Infobox Islands
name = Pedra Branca

image caption = A view of the island of Pedra Branca from the west

map_custom = no
location = South China Sea
coordinates = coord|1|19|48|N|104|24|27|E|display=inline,title
area = convert|8560|m2|sqft|abbr=on
length = convert|137|m|ft|abbr=on
width = convert|60|m|ft|abbr=on (average)
coastline =
country = Singapore

Pedra Branca (formerly referred to by Malaysia as Pulau Batu Puteh and now as Batu Puteh) is an outlying island of Singapore. The name means "white rock" in Portuguese, and refers to whitish guano (bird droppings) deposited on the rock. The island consists of a small outcrop of granite rocks with an area of about convert|8560|m2|sqft. During the low water it measures, at its longest, convert|137|m|ft and has an average width of convert|60|m|ft. It is situated at 1° 19′ 48″ N and 104° 24′ 27″ E, where the Singapore Strait meets the South China Sea. There are two maritime features near Pedra Branca. Middle Rocks, under the sovereignty of Malaysia, consists of two clusters of small rocks about convert|250|m|ft apart situated convert|0.6|nmi|km mi|1 south of Pedra Branca. South Ledge, which is convert|2.2|nmi|km mi to the south-south-west of Pedra Branca, is a rock formation visible only at low-tide.

Pedra Branca was known to sailors for centuries. It was originally within the territory of the Johor Sultanate which was founded in 1528, and remained under the new Sultanate of Johor under the British sphere of influence following the signing of the Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1824 between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Between 1850 and 1851, the British built Horsburgh Lighthouse on the island without informing the Johor authorities of their decision to do so or seeking consent for its erection. From that time, the island was administered by the United Kingdom and its successor, Singapore. On 21 September 1953, the Acting State Secretary of Johor, responding to a query from the Colonial Secretary of Singapore about the status of the island, stated that "the Johore Government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca".

On 21 December 1979 Malaysia published a map which showed the island to be within its territorial waters. This ignited a 29-year territorial dispute which, together with the issue of sovereignty over the nearby maritime features of Middle Rocks and South Ledge, was presented to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution. On 23 May 2008 the ICJ ruled that Pedra Branca is under Singapore's sovereignty. Although the island had originally been under the sovereignty of the Johor Sultanate, the United Kingdom and Singapore had carried out various acts of sovereignty in respect of the island. The failure of Malaysia and its predecessors to respond to these acts, and other actions which demonstrated their acknowledgment of Singapore's sovereignty over the island, meant that Singapore had gained sovereignty over Pedra Branca. On the other hand, Middle Rocks remains part of Malaysian territory as Singapore had not manifested any acts of sovereignty in respect of it. The Court did not rule definitively on the remaining outcrop, South Ledge, merely declaring that it belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located. Malaysia and Singapore have established what they have named the Joint Technical Committee to delimit the maritime boundary in the area around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, and to determine the ownership of South Ledge.


Pedra Branca means "white rock" in Portuguese, and refers to whitish guano (bird droppings) deposited on the rock by the black-naped tern, which used the island as a nesting ground.citation|author=Julian Davison|title=Between a rock and a hard place|url=|magazine=The Expat|date=July 2008|page=86 (archived by WebCite at] This name is used by both the English-language and Malay-language press in Singapore. [See, for instance, citation|author=Puad Ibrahim|title=Surat tahun 1953 jadi penentu hak milik pulau. ICJ: Surat buktikan Johor memahami ia tidak mempunyai kedaulatan terhadap Pedra Branca|url=,3617,119449,00.html|newspaper=Berita Harian|date=28 May 2008.] Malaysia formerly referred to the island as Pulau Batu Puteh, which means "white rock island" in Malay, but the Government of Malaysia subsequently decided to drop the word "Pulau" ("Island"). In August 2008 Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said Malaysia considered that the maritime feature did not meet internationally recognised criteria for an island, that is, land inhabited by humans that had economic activity.citation|title=KL: 'Pulau' no more as Pedra Branca not an island|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=22 August 2008. See also citation|title=KL: 'Pulau' no more|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=2008-08-21; citation|author=Su Jun Xiang|title=Between a rock and a hard place|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=22 August 2008.]

The island is known in Mandarin as "Baijiao" (zh-cp|c=白礁|p=báijiāo), which means "white reef". [citation|author=English Language Department, Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages|contribution= _zh. 礁 jiāo|editor=Wu Jingrong|title=A Chinese–English Dictionary|location=Beijing|publisher=Commercial Press|year=1978|page=340.] The Tamil name is _ta. பெட்ரா பிராங்கா, a transliteration of Pedra Branca.

Physical attributes

Pedra Branca, located at 1° 19′ 48″ N and 104° 24′ 27″ E, is an island with an area of about convert|8560|m2|sqft. During the low water it measures, at its longest, a mere convert|137|m|ft and has an average width of convert|60|m|ft. It is approximately convert|24|nmi|km mi to the east of Singapore; convert|7.7|nmi|km mi south of Johor, Malaysia; and convert|7.6|nmi|km mi north of Bintan, Indonesia. [citation|title=Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore)|url=|publisher=International Court of Justice|date=23 May 2008, para. 16.] citation|author=May Wong|title=Background on Pedra Branca|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=6 November 2007.] [By the Protected Places (No. 4) Order 2002 (S 305/2002), which came into effect on 27 June 2002, Pedra Branca was declared a "protected area" within the meaning of the Singapore Statute|title=Protected Areas and Protected Places Act|c
. In the Schedule to the Order, it was described as " [t] he island occupied by 'PORT OF SINGAPORE (HORSBURGH LIGHTHOUSE)' containing an area of approximately 8,650 square metres. The eastern-most point is approximately along the bearing 73° 51′ for 97 metres from the centre of the lighthouse, Latitude 1° 19′ 48.8″ N and Longitude 104° 21′ 20.6″ E (WGS 84 datum) approximately".

There are two maritime features near Pedra Branca. Middle Rocks, which is under the sovereignty of Malaysia, consists of two clusters of small rocks about convert|250|m|ft apart situated convert|0.6|nmi|km mi|1 south of the island. They stand convert|0.6|m|ft to convert|1.2|m|ft permanently above water. South Ledge, on the other hand, is a rock formation visible only at low-tide. It is convert|2.2|nmi|km mi to the south-south-west of Pedra Branca. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 18.] Its ownership has yet to be definitively determined by Malaysia and Singapore.

Rock samples from Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge show they are all composed of a light, coarse-grained biotite granite. Therefore, from a geomorphological standpoint, the three maritime features belong to the same rock body. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 282.]


Up to the 1840s

Pedra Branca was known to sailors for centuries. Part of the Chinese sailing instructions for the South China Sea based on information compiled by Admiral Zheng He (1371–1433) advised a navigator that after departing Long Ya Men (Mandarin for "Dragon's Teeth Gate"), a rocky outcrop at the gateway to what is now Keppel Harbour in Singapore, he should steer a course of between 75º to 90º for five watches until his vessel reached "Baijiao". Pedra Branca was also mentioned in Dutch voyager Jan Huyghen van Linschoten's "Itinerario" ("Itinerary"), [citation|author=Jan Huyghen van Linschoten|title=Itinerario. Voyage ofte Schipvaert, van J. H. v. L. naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien, inhoudende een corte beschryvinghe der selber Landen ende Zee-custen, etc. (Beschryvinghe van de gantsche Custe van Guinea, Manicongo, Angola, Monomotapa, ende tegen over de Cabo de S. Augustijn in Brasilien, de eyghenschappen des gheheelen Oceanische Zees; Midtsgaders harer Eylanden, als daer zijn S. Thome, S. Helena, 't Eyland Ascencion, etc. Reys-gheschrift vande Navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten, etc., uyt die Portugaloysche ende Spaensche in onse ghemeene Nederlandtsche Tale ghetranslateert ende overgheset door J. H. v. L.) Itinerary: Voyage of the Sailor Jan Huyghen van Linschoten to the East of the Portuguese Indies ...|url=|location=Amsterdam|publisher= [s.n.] |year=1596 (in Dutch).] an account of his voyages in the Portuguese East Indies. After the publication of the work in 1596, the island began appearing regularly on European maps of the Far East.Davison, p. 88.] The 1598 English edition of the work stated: [citation|author=Jan Huyghen van Linschoten|author2=William Phillip, transl.|title=Iohn Huighen van Linschoten. His Discours of Voyages into ye Easte & West Indies. Devided into Foure Bookes. (Translated out of Dutch into English by W [illiam] P [hillip] )|location=London|publisher=By [John Windet for] Iohn Wolfe printer to ye Honorable Cittie of London|year=1598.]

Pedra Branca was originally within the territory of the Johor Sultanate, ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 68.] which was founded in 1528 by Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II, the son of Sultan Mahmud Shah of the Malacca Sultanate. In the mid 17th century, the Dutch Governor of Malacca wrote to the Dutch East India Company, asking it to send two boats to the Straits of Singapore to "cruise to the south of Singapore Straits under the Hook of Barbukit and in the vicinity of Pedra Branca" to stop Chinese traders from entering Johor River. The plan was put into force, and two Chinese junks were captured in the Straits and diverted to Malacca. However, this action provoked a protest from the Sultan of Johor, which showed that the Sultan regarded the junks' seizure as an infringement of his sovereignty in the area. Three letters written in 1824 to the Government of India by the British Resident in Singapore, John Crawfurd, also confirm it was his understanding that all the islands in the region of the Straits of Singapore came under the Johor Sultanate. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 54–56.]

In addition, other 19th century documents evidence that the Sultan of Johor exercised authority over the "Orang Laut" ("sea people") who inhabited the maritime areas of the Straits of Singapore and visited Pedra Branca. One of these was a letter of November 1850 by John Turnbull Thomson, the Government Surveyor of Singapore, which reported on the need to exclude the "Orang Laut" from Pedra Branca where Horsburgh Lighthouse was being built. Calling them a "half fishing half piratical sect", Thomson noted that they "frequently visit the rock so their visits should never be encouraged nor any trust put in them ... In the straits and islets of the neighbouring shores and islands many lives are taken by these people." ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 71, 74–75.]

On 17 March 1824, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands signed the Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1824. It divided the old Johor Sultanate into two new Sultanates: the new Sultanate of Johor, which would be under the British sphere of influence, and the Sultanate of RiauLingga under Dutch influence. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 98.] Under Article XII of the Treaty, Britain agreed that "no British Establishment shall be made on the Carimon Isles, or on the Island of Bantam, Bintang, Lingin, or on any of the other Islands South of the Straits of Singapore ..." The islands and islets within the Straits fell within the British sphere of influence. This included Pedra Branca, which thus remained part of the territorial domain of the new Johor Sultanate. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 100.]

1840s to 1851: Construction of Horsburgh Lighthouse

Captain James Horsburgh, [citation|title=Significant Scots: James Horsburgh|url=|publisher=Electric Scotland|accessdate=2007-11-07.] a Scottish hydrographer to the British East India Company who had prepared many charts and sailing instructions for the East Indies, China, New Holland, the Cape of Good Hope and other intermediate ports, [citation|author=James Horsburgh|title=Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies, China, New Holland, Cape of Good Hope, and the Interjacent Ports|location=London|publisher=Printed for the author|year=1809–1811.] died in May 1836. Merchants and mariners felt that the building of one or more lighthouses would be a fitting tribute to him, and in as early as November 1836 Pedra Branca was proposed as one of the preferred sites. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 126; Davison, p. 89.] By 1844, preference had been expressed for Romania Outer Island, or Peak Rock."Pedra Branca" case, para. 128.] Some time in November 1844, the Governor of the Straits Settlements, William John Butterworth, wrote to the Sultan and the Temenggung of Johor regarding the matter. His letters have not been found, but English translations of the replies, dated 25 November 1844, indicate that the Sultan and Temenggung favoured the proposal. In particular, the Temenggung wrote that "the [East India] company are at full liberty to put up a Light House there, or any spot deemed eligible". Three days later, on 28 November, the Governor wrote to the Secretary of the Government in India to recommend that the lighthouse be sited on Peak Rock. Among other things, he said that " [t] his Rock is part of the Territories of the Rajah of Johore, who with the Tamongong ... have willingly consented to cede it gratuitously to the East India Company", and enclosed the replies received from the Sultan and Temenggung. Although this was apparently the Governor's understanding of the situation, he did not communicate it to the Sultan and Temenggung. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 136.] It is unclear whether the correspondence was limited to Peak Rock or extended to other potential sites for the lighthouse such as Pedra Branca, and whether the sovereignty of Johor over any place chosen for the lighthouse was ceded to the British Government or only a permission to build, maintain and operate a lighthouse was granted. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 131 and 145.]

On 22 August 1845, Governor Butterworth wrote again to the Government of India, indicating he trusted that construction of the lighthouse on Peak Rock would begin soon "as a light in that quarters is becoming daily of more paramount importance"."Pedra Branca" case, para. 146.] Between 1824 and 1851, at least 16 sizeable vessels were wrecked in the vicinity of Pedra Branca and Point Romania (on the Johor coast). [citation|author=Vernon Cornelius-Takahama|title=Pedra Branca|url=|publisher=Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board|date=27 January 2000|accessdate=2008-09-01; citation|author=Harold Stephens|title=Light Houses of Asia|url=|magazine=Traveller Magazine (reproduced on the Wolfenden Publishing website)|accessdate=2008-08-31.] However, in April 1846, the Lords of the Admiralty in London informed the Court of Directors of the East India Company they were inclined to think that Pedra Branca was the best point for the lighthouse. John Thomson and Captain S. Congalton, commander of the East India Company's steamer called the "Hooghly", carried out surveys in May and August. In a report dated 25 August, they said they were "decidedly of opinion that Pedra Branca is the only proper position for a Light to be placed ... for the safety of Shipping whether entering or departing for the Straits of Singapore ..." The following day, Governor Butterworth wrote to the Government of India stating that the Government "will at once perceive that Pedra Branca is the only true position" for the lighthouse. On 30 October 1846 the President in Council in India approved Pedra Branca as the site for the lighthouse. The East India Company gave its approval on 24 February 1847, and on 10 May of that year the Government of India asked Governor Butterworth to take measures for the construction of the lighthouse. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 147.] There is no evidence that the authorities in Singapore thought it necessary or desirable to inform the Johor authorities of the decision about the siting of the lighthouse or to seek any consent for its erection. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 148.]

Although the private subscribers wishing to commemorate Horsburgh had raised a sum which, with compound interest, came up to more than 7,400 Spanish dollars when it was paid over to the Singapore authorities, [Davison, p. 90.] there was still a shortfall of funds for the building works. Thus, the Government of India, in agreement with the East India Company, authorized Governor Butterworth to prepare a law imposing a duty on vessels entering Singapore and asked him to take immediate measures to begin constructing the lighthouse."Pedra Branca" case, para. 151.] The Light Dues Act 1852 was duly enacted by the Governor-General of India in Council on 30 January 1852. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 153.] Thomson, appointed by the Governor as architect for the project, took charge of planning and supervising the construction of Horsburgh Lighthouse. Construction work began in late March or early April 1850. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 152.] On Queen Victoria's birthday, 24 May 1850, the foundation stone was laid at a ceremony conducted by members of the newly-founded Masonic Lodge Zetland in the East No. 749 and attended by the Governor, the commander of the Singapore garrison, a rear admiral and several foreign consuls. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 154; Davison, p. 92.] The construction of the lighthouse then continued till 21 October, and resumed after the monsoon in April 1851. Up to 50 workmen were involved, including Chinese carpenters and stonemasons and their Malay assistants, Indian quarrymen and convict labourers, a cook and his assistant, and six lascars to defend the island from attack by pirates. The pirates of the South China Sea were notorious – during the construction of Horsburgh Lighthouse nine Chinese labourers were killed in pirate raids. Building materials and supplies were brought by the "Hooghly", supported by two gunboats and two lighters. Unless he was required elsewhere, Thomson stayed on the island to supervise the works. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 152 and 159.] The ceremonial first lighting of the lamp was arranged for 27 September 1851, again attended by the Governor, Masons of the Zetland Lodge, foreign dignitaries, senior residents of Singapore and other notables; the "Singapore Free Press" reported: "A simultaneous rising [of the guests from the dinner table] announced that the process of illumination had commenced. Three hearty cheers welcomed the light, the meteor-like brilliancy of which will probably serve to guide the midnight path of the mariner for a thousand years to come."Davison, p. 94.] On 15 October the lighthouse was permanently turned on, and Thomson finally departed Pedra Branca for Singapore on the "Hooghly" on 18 November 1851. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 159.]

1852 to the 1970s

The Light Dues Acts of 1852 and 1854 (India) declared that Horsburgh Lighthouse and its appurtenances were the property of and vested in the East India Company. In 1867, the Straits Settlements, of which Singapore was a part, became a Crown Colony, and by the Straits Settlements Light-Houses Ordinance 1912, the lighthouse was vested in Singapore. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 171.] After 1912, the duties levied on ships passing through the Singapore Strait were abolished; instead, the costs of the lighthouse were shared by the neighbouring states. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 178.]

In 1946, following World War II, Singapore became a separate Crown Colony. The other Straits Settlements, Malacca and Penang, joined the Malay states (including Johor) to form the Malayan Union. The latter became the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and the Federation of Malaysia in 1957 when it gained independence from Britain. On 17 June 1953, the Colonial Secretary of Singapore wrote to the British Adviser to the Sultan of Johor to clarify the status of Pedra Branca. He noted that the rock was outside the limits ceded by Sultan Hussein Shah and the Temenggung with the island of Singapore under the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance of 2 August 1824 they had entered into with the East India Company. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 102.] However, the Colonial Government had been maintaining the lighthouse built on it, and " [t] his by international usage no doubt confers some rights and obligations on the Colony". He therefore asked if "there is any document showing a lease or grant of the rock or whether it has been ceded by the Government of the State of Johore or in any other way disposed of". ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 192.] The Acting State Secretary of Johor replied on 21 September that "the Johore Government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca". ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 196.] This correspondence indicated that as of 1953 Johor understood it did not have sovereignty over Pedra Branca, which had therefore vested in the United Kingdom. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 223.]

The Colony of Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959, and left the British Empire to join the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Singapore became a fully independent republic. In 1959, in an official publication regarding meteorological information collected on Pedra Branca, Malaya listed Horsburgh Lighthouse as a "Singapore" station together with the Sultan Shoal and Raffles Lighthouses. The lighthouse on Pedra Branca was described in the same way in a joint Malaysian and Singaporean publication in 1966, the year after Singapore left the Federation. In 1967, when the two countries began reporting meteorological information separately, Malaysia ceased referring to Horsburgh Lighthouse. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 265.] In maps published by the Malayan and Malaysian Surveyor General and Director of General Mapping in 1962, 1965, 1970, 1974 and 1975, the island was indicated with the word "(SINGAPORE)" or "(SINGAPURA)" under it. The same designation was used for an island that was unquestionably under Singapore's sovereignty. On the other hand, the designation was not used for Pulau Pisang, an island under Malaysian sovereignty on which Singapore operated a lighthouse. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 269.]

Singapore replaced the original kerosene-fired lamp of Horsburgh Lighthouse with automated navigational lights in the 1970s. In 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1978, the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) considered the feasibility of carrying out reclamation of about convert|5000|m2|sqft of land around Pedra Branca, but did not go ahead with the project."Pedra Branca" case, para. 249.] On 30 May 1977, with the permission of the PSA, the Republic of Singapore Navy installed a military rebroadcast station which it shared with the Republic of Singapore Air Force. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 247.] Subsequently, the PSA installed a helipad on the eastern half of the island, and a communications tower for its Vehicle Traffic Information System for the 900-odd ships that pass daily through the south and middle channels which are the main shipping channels of the eastern part of the Singapore Strait. [citation|author=Lydia Lim|title=Why Singapore is fighting the case to keep Pedra Branca|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times (reproduced on the Malaysian Bar website)|date=13 November 2007.]


With effect from 27 June 2002, Pedra Branca was declared a protected area within the meaning of the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act. [Singapore Statute|title=Protected Areas and Protected Places Act|c
: see the Protected Places (No. 4) Order 2002 (S 305/2002).
] Consequently, a permit from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is required for access to the island, [Protected Places (No. 4) Order 2002, para. 2.] and unauthorized presence there is a criminal offence. [Under s. 7 read with s. 5(1) of the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act, unauthorized presence on the premises is punishable on conviction with a fine of S$1,000 or imprisonment for a term of 2 years or both.] On 6 October 2008, a Singaporean man, Roger Lee, was convicted of illegally landing on Pedra Branca. In court documents, he said he had gone to Batam, Indonesia, in 1998. He later married and started a family with an Indonesian woman, but she left him in 2007 due to his unstable income and inability to hold down a job. As he had illegally overstayed in Indonesia, and had been cheated of his passport and other personal documents by a friend, Lee hatched a plan to pretend to be a lost fisherman in the hope that the Police Coast Guard would rescue him and take him back to Singapore. On 5 February 2008 he paid a boatman to transport him out to sea in a motorized sampan. As he did not see any coast guard or navy patrols he disembarked on Pedra Branca and was arrested by staff stationed there. Lee pleaded guilty to illegally entering Singapore via an unauthorized landing place. A second charge of being found in a protected place without permission was taken into consideration for sentencing purposes. In mitigation, Lee's "pro bono" lawyer said that there was no sign on Pedra Branca warning against trespassing on the island. Lee was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment. [citation|author=Teh Joo Lin|title=Jailed for landing on Pedra Branca: Man tries to return to S'pore after 10 years away, but trespasses on off-limits island instead|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times (Home) (reproduced on the Malaysian Bar website)|date=7 October 2008|page=B1; citation|author=Teo Xuanwei|title=Caught between a rock and a difficult place|url=|newspaper=Today|date=7 October 2008|page=6 (archived by WebCite at]

Territorial dispute

International Court of Justice case

On 21 December 1979, the Director of National Mapping of Malaysia published a map entitled "Territorial Waters and Continental Shelf Boundaries of Malaysia" showing Pedra Branca to be within its territorial waters. Singapore rejected this "claim" in a diplomatic note of 14 February 1980 and asked for the map to be corrected. The dispute was not resolved by an exchange of correspondence and intergovernmental talks in 1993 and 1994. In the first round of talks in February 1993 the issue of sovereignty over Middle Rocks and South Ledge was also raised. Malaysia and Singapore therefore agreed to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), signing a Special Agreement for this purpose in February 2003 and notifying the Court of it in July 2003. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 30 and 31.] The case was heard at the Peace Palace in The Hague between 6 and 23 November 2007. ["Pedra Branca" case, para. 12.]

The ICJ delivered its judgment on 23 May 2008. It held that although Pedra Branca had originally been under the sovereignty of Johor, the conduct of Singapore and its predecessors "à titre de souverain" (with the title of a sovereign) and the failure of Malaysia and its predecessors to respond to such conduct showed that by 1980, when the dispute between the parties arose, sovereignty over the island had passed to Singapore. The relevant conduct on the part of Singapore and its predecessors included investigating marine accidents in the vicinity of the island, planning land reclamation works, installing naval communications equipment, and requiring Malaysian officials wishing to visit the island to obtain permits. In contrast, Johor and its successors had taken no action with respect to the island from June 1850 for a century or more. In 1953 the Acting Secretary of the State of Johor had stated that Johor did not claim ownership of Pedra Branca. All visits made to the island had been with Singapore's express permission, and maps published by Malaysia in the 1960s and 1970s indicated that it recognized Singapore's sovereignty over Pedra Branca. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 274–277. See also citation|title=Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore)|url=|publisher=International Court of Justice|date=23 May 2008; citation|title=Court awards islet to Singapore|publisher=BBC News|url=|date=23 May 2008.] citation|title=ICJ awards Pedra Branca's sovereignty to Singapore|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=23 May 2008|accessdate=23 May 2008.]

Like Pedra Branca, the Sultan of Johor held the original ancient title to Middle Rocks. As Singapore had not exercised any rights as a sovereign over Middle Rocks, the ICJ determined that Malaysia retained sovereignty over this maritime feature. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 289 and 290.] As for South Ledge, the ICJ noted that it fell within the apparently overlapping territorial waters of mainland Malaysia, Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks. As the Court had not been mandated to draw the line of delimitation with respect to the territorial waters of Malaysia and Singapore in the area in question, it simply held that sovereignty over South Ledge belonged to the state which owned the territorial waters in which it is located. ["Pedra Branca" case, paras. 297–299.]

Reactions to ICJ decision

Although both Malaysia and Singapore had agreed to respect and accept the ICJ's decision, [citation|title=Malaysia, Singapore to accept ICJ's ruling on island|url=|newspaper=The Star|date=18 April 2008|accessdate=2008-06-04; citation|title=ICJ's ruling on Pedra Branca to be delivered on May 23|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=30 April 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01.] Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim later said his country had renewed its search for the letters written by Governor Butterworth to the Sultan and Temenggung of Johor seeking permission to build Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca. He noted that the rules of the ICJ allowed a case to be reviewed within ten years if new evidence was adduced. [citation|title=Malaysia not giving up hope on Batu Puteh yet|url=|newspaper=The Star|date=1 June 2008. Article 61(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice states: "An application for revision of a judgment may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence." The application for revision must be made at latest within six months of the discovery of the new fact, and no application for revision may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of the judgment: Articles 61(4) and (5). See citation|title=Statute of the International Court of Justice|url=|publisher=International Court of Justice|accessdate=2008-09-01.] In response, Singapore's Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that the city-state would wait to see what new evidence the Malaysian government could come up with. [citation|title=S'pore will wait to see what new evidence M'sia can produce over Pedra Branca|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=4 June 2008|accessdate=2008-06-04.]

A week after the delivery of the ICJ's judgment, the Foreign Ministry of Malaysia asked the Malaysian media to cease using the Malay word "Pulau" ("Island") for Pedra Branca and to refer to it as "Batu Puteh" or "Pedra Branca". [citation|author=Lydia Lim|title=Rough seas or calm ahead?|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=31 May 2008 (archived by WebCite at] On 21 July 2008, in response to questions from Singapore Members of Parliament about Pedra Branca, the Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Balaji Sadasivan stated that the maritime territory around the island included a territorial sea of up to convert|12|nmi|km mi and an Exclusive Economic Zone. This was condemned by Malaysia's Foreign Minister Rais Yatim as "against the spirit of Asean and the legal structure" as the claim was "unacceptable and unreasonable and contradicts the principles of international law". [citation|title=KL's warning on Pedra Branca|url=||date=July 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01. See also citation|author=Carolyn Hong|title=Choppy waters around Pedra Branca again: Singapore's remark on setting up Exclusive Economic Zone sparks Malaysian media frenzy|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=25 July 2008.] In response, a Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that Singapore first stated its claim to a territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone on 15 September 1980, and reiterated this claim on 23 May 2008 following the ICJ's judgment. Both statements had made clear that if the limits of Singapore's territorial sea or Exclusive Economic Zone overlapped with the claims of neighbouring countries, Singapore would negotiate with those countries to arrive at agreed delimitations in accordance with international law. [citation|title=MFA Spokesman's Comments on an Exclusive Economic Zone around Pedra Branca|url=|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs|date=25 July 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01. See also citation|title=Ministry of Foreign Affairs press statement: International Court of Justice awards sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore, 23 May 2008|url=|publisher=SPRInter, Government of Singapore|date=23 May 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01; citation|author=Valerie Tan|title=MFA says ICJ's judgement on Pedra Branca brings closure|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=23 May 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01; citation|title=Transcript of Senior Minister-of-State Balaji Sadasivan's replies to Parliamentary Questions and a Supplementary Question, 21 July 2008|url=|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs|date=21 July 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01.] In August 2008, Rais said Malaysia took the view that Singapore was not entitled to claim an Exclusive Economic Zone around Pedra Branca as it considered that the maritime feature did not meet internationally recognised criteria for an island, that is, land inhabited by humans that had economic activity.

At the National Day Awards in August 2008, Singapore conferred awards on a number of people for their special contributions towards the Pedra Branca case. Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong; Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large; and Justice Chao Hick Tin, then Attorney-General of Singapore, who appeared as counsel and advocates for Singapore, were respectively awarded the "Darjah Utama Temasek" (Order of Temasek) (Second Class), the "Darjah Utama Nila Utama" (Order of Nila Utama) (First Class), and the "Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang" (Distinguished Service Order). The "Pingat Jasa Gemilang" (Meritorius Service Medal) was conferred on Sivakant Tiwari s/o Thakurprasad Tiwari, Special Consultant to the International Affairs Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers. Twenty-two people from the Attorney-General's Chambers, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Archives of Singapore, National Library Board, National University of Singapore and Supreme Court of Singapore received the "Pingat Pentadbiran Awam" (Public Administration Medal), the "Pingat Kepujian" (Commendation Medal) and the "Pingat Berkebolehan" (Efficiency Medal). The President's Certificate of Commendation was issued to the Coastal Command (COSCOM), Republic of Singapore Navy; the Police Coast Guard, Singapore Police Force; the Centre for Heritage Services, Ministry of Defence; the National Archives of Singapore; and the Hydrographic Department, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. [citation|title=National Day awards|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=11 August 2008; citation|title=National Day Awards 2008 to recognise special contributions for the Pedra Branca case|url=|publisher=Prime Minister's Office|date=14 August 2008|accessdate=2008-09-03.]

Resolution of outstanding issues

Malaysia and Singapore have established what they have named the Joint Technical Committee to delimit the maritime boundary in the area around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, and to determine the ownership of South Ledge. [citation|title=ICJ awards Pedra Branca's sovereignty to Singapore|url=|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=23 May 2008|accessdate=23 May 2008; citation|author=Li Xueying|title=Navigating the rocks ahead may be tricky: But experts confident any unresolved issues will be ironed out|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times (reproduced on the Malaysian Bar website)|date=24 May 2008. See also citation|title=S'pore, M'sia grapple with UN court decision|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times (reproduced on AsiaOne)|date=26 May 2008.] Following a meeting on 3 June 2008, the Committee agreed that a technical sub-committee would be established to oversee the conduct of joint survey works to prepare the way for talks on maritime issues in and around the area. If any incident occurred in and around the waters of Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, either side would provide humanitarian assistance to the vessels involved. Finally, both Malaysian and Singaporean fishermen could continue traditional fishing activities in those waters. [citation|author=Zakir Hussain|title=Both sides agree on aid to ships, fishing: S'pore, Malaysia to cooperate on safety and security issues in area, conduct joint survey works|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times|date=7 June 2008.] In September 2008, the Joint Technical Committee reported that its Sub-Committee on Joint Survey Works was finalizing technical preparations for a hydrographic survey that would provide data for future delimitation discussions. A Sub-Committee on Maritime and Airspace Management and Fisheries had also been formed, and after a meeting on 20 August 2008 it decided that traditional fishing activities by both countries should continue in waters beyond convert|0.5|nmi|km mi|1 off Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge. [citation|author=Goh Chin Lian|title=Pedra Branca: New joint panel formed|url=|newspaper=The Straits Times (reproduced on AsiaOne)|date=2 September 2008|page=B2; citation|title=Traditional fishing can go on|url=|newspaper=Today|date=2 September 2008|page=8 (archived by WebCite at]

ee also

*Pulau Merambong
*Pulau Pisang



*citation|title=Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore)|url=|publisher=International Court of Justice|date=23 May 2008.
*citation|last=Davison|first=Julian|title=Between a rock and a hard place|url=|magazine=The Expat|date=July 2008|page=86 (archived by WebCite at

Further reading

News reports

*citation|author=I Made Andi Arsana|title=Singapore gets Pedra Branca: What's next?|url=|newspaper=The Jakarta Post|date=24 June 2008.
*citation|last=Majawat|first=Evangeline|title=Pedra Branca EEZ: Singapore's claim on shaky ground|url=|newspaper=New Straits Times|date=24 July 2008.


*citation|last=Hall-Jones|first=John|title=The Horsburgh Lighthouse|location=Invercargill, N.Z.|publisher=John Hall-Jones|year=1995|isbn=0473032058 (pbk.).
*citation|last=Pavitt|first=J.A.L.|title=First Pharos of the Eastern Seas: Horsburgh Lighthouse|location=Singapore|publisher=Donald Moore Press|year=1966.
*citation|last=Thomson|first=J [ohn] T [urnbull] |authorlink=John Turnbull Thomson|title=Account of the Horsburgh Light-house, Erected on Pedra Branca, near Singapore|location=Singapore|publisher=G.M. Fredrick|year=1852.

External links

*citation|title=Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge|url=|publisher=International Court of Justice|accessdate=2008-08-31.
*citation|title=International Court of Justice – Case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge|url=|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore|year=2007.
*citation|title=Batu Puteh, Batuan Tengah & Tubir Selatan issues: Sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore)|url=|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia|accessdate=2008-08-31.
*citation|title=Horsburgh light|url=|publisher=Lighthouse Depot|accessdate=2008-08-31.


* [ Pedra Branca, Singapore – an aerial photograph from Flickr]
* [,104.407625&spn=0.030805,0.092182&t=k&om=1&iwloc=addr Satellite image of the island from Google Maps]

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