Transcript of door-stop interview of DPM S Jayakumar and AAL Tommy Koh

23 May 2008

DPM Jayakumar: First of all, I wish to say that moments ago I was on the phone with the Prime Minister. In fact, the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues are attending a Cabinet meeting today, right now and they were at the same time keeping in close contact with the news on the reading of the judgement. The Prime Minister told me that he was pleased with the outcome and also asked me to thank the members of our team for the work they have done. I think what I will do is, I will say a few words about the judgement, then about the process and finally about the contributions of the team.

We are pleased with the judgement because the Court has awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, which is the main feature in the dispute, to Singapore. Of course, we would have been happier if the Court had awarded all the three features in Singapore's favour, and we have argued before the Court that all these other features were part of Pedra Branca, but the Court has found otherwise and we accept the judgement of the Court.

Now about the process, this judgement brings to closure a territorial dispute which has been dragging on for some 30 years. It brings to closure, and I think Malaysia and Singapore, by resolving the dispute in an amicable manner by recourse to the ICJ for third-party dispute settlement, have in fact shown to our people as well to the region that this is a way of resolving intractable issues, and I think it is a model for resolving other issues. It is also good that both Malaysia and Singapore leaders have repeatedly said that they will abide by the findings of the Court whatever the outcome will be, and also have emphasised that it will not affect bilateral relations. In fact, we have set up a mechanism, a joint-committee to ensure a smooth implementation, so I think that's very good for the bilateral relations of both sides. Let me also finally say that for many of us, this is the end of a 30-year journey and I am very grateful to all the members of the Singapore team from many agencies and departments, for the very close and cohesive way in which they have worked on this case. I also want to thank our foreign counsel for their great contributions to our effort in the International Court of Justice, which was the first time they had such an experience. Tommy, would you like to add?

Q: Maybe you can talk about the 12-4 votes?

AAL Tommy Koh: I think the majority of 12 judges in our favour and 4 dissenting judges is a good ratio. I'm happy with it.

Q: Can you also talk about maybe what do you think, could have swayed them over towards Singapore's side?

AAL Tommy Koh: I don't want to speculate on the internal workings of the Court.

Q: Tell us what generally about your sense of the judgement and now the case is over, tell us some of your...tell us how it feels?

AAL Tommy Koh: How it feels? I think both of us feel relieved and happy. The first one hour to one and a half hours was a bit of a cliff-hanger because we have argued very strenuously against Malaysia's primary argument of its original title. We have made a strong argument in favour of the view that in 1847, Pedra Branca and the two related features were Terra nullius. The Court found against us. That of course, was a great disappointment. Fortunately, the rest of the judgement was in our favour. What they found was that because of the long cumulation of sovereign state activity on the part of Singapore on the island because of the 1953 Letter of Disclaimer, because of Malaysia's acquiescence, that title had passed from Malaysia to Singapore. Thank you.

Travel Page