MFA Spokesman's Comments - Land Reclamation

"Malaysia first raised its objections to Singapore's reclamation works in January 2002. As Malaysia did not provide any facts or details to support its allegations, Singapore repeatedly asked Malaysia for technical reports substantiating its concerns so that we could study them. Malaysia promised to provide such reports, but did not do so.

On 4 July 2003, after more than a year, Malaysia finally sent Singapore a Third Person Note (TPN), which enclosed technical reports on how our reclamation works have affected them. In that Note, Malaysia also gave Singapore notice that it was referring the reclamation issue to international arbitration under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Although it took Malaysia more than a year to send us the technical reports, Malaysia gave Singapore an ultimatum to respond within two weeks. Unless Singapore complied with its list of demands, Malaysia would apply to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for provisional measures, including an order to stop our reclamation works.

On 17 July 2003, Singapore replied to Malaysia providing it with relevant reports and documents giving a comprehensive picture of our reclamation works. We assured Malaysia that our works have not and will not cause any significant impact on the specific concerns Malaysia has raised, and invited Malaysia to meet to discuss its concerns.

Malaysia accepted our invitation. Senior officials and experts met in Singapore from 13 to 14 August 2003. It was a good start to understanding each other's concerns. However, given the complex and highly technical nature of the subject, it was clear that further meetings were necessary, as we had only identified the issues which divide us. In fact, Singapore proposed that both sides exchange information and reports expeditiously, and after we had had time to study the new information, Malaysia should host a second round of talks in Putrajaya. One week after the 13-14 August meeting, both sides exchanged additional technical reports.

We are therefore disappointed that Malaysia has decided to submit the matter to arbitration and proceed to seek provisional measures. It is both premature and unnecessary. It is regrettable that Malaysia has not made a serious attempt to resolve the matter through negotiations.

Singapore's consistent position is to settle the dispute amicably through negotiations. Nevertheless, when the issue goes to international arbitration and adjudication, we are confident that Singapore's position will be vindicated.

Singapore is a very small and land-scarce country, and reclamation is necessary for our survival and prosperity. Singapore's reclamation plans have always been in the public domain. In all our reclamation works, Singapore has acted in conformity with our rights and obligations under international law."

On whether Singapore will suspend reclamation works, the MFA Spokesman added:

"Malaysia is making the immediate cessation of reclamation works a precondition for further consultations. Such talks should be held without any preconditions.

Suspension of works is a very serious matter. It would only be justified if there is clear evidence of serious and imminent damage. Singapore has provided Malaysia with technical reports and explained in detail that our studies indicate that no significant adverse effects will result from our reclamation works. Malaysia's demand is therefore not justified."

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