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JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What was the Sipadan-Ligitan dispute about - JC History Essay Notes

What was the Sipadan-Ligitan dispute about?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: historical animosities & political differences

About the Islands: Sipadan and Ligitan
Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan are located in the northeast coast of Borneo. The surrounding waters of Borneo (which comprises of East Malaysia and Indonesia) are popular scuba diving destinations.

In 1891, Britain and Netherlands signed the Anglo-Dutch Convention, which separated the seas in the North Borneo region into two separate zones. Based on the Convention, Indonesia claimed the two islands.

Formation of the Malaysian Federation (1963)
On 16 September 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was formed. It included the merger with Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia inherited North Borneo from the British. As such, Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan were part of Malaysian territory.

However, inter-state tensions surfaced when Malaysia published a controversial map [the same map that gave rise to the Pedra Branca dispute] on 21 December 1979 that included Sipadan and Ligitan within its territories. In February 1980, Indonesia declared its objection to Malaysia’s map.

East Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): Refer to South-East of Sabah to find Sipadan and Ligitan [Adapted from Haller-Trost (1998)]

Violent Confrontations: Gunboat diplomacy
In 1991, Indonesia discovered the conduct of tourist activities by Malaysia in Pulau Sipadan. The latter allowed a private dive company to build chalets and a pier.

Since Indonesia’s request for Malaysia to halt the commercial development was in vain, the threat of military force was employed against Malaysia. In July, Indonesia seized a Malaysian fishing vessel near Sipadan.

Conflict De-escalation: Negotiations
Fortunately, both parties agreed to resolve the dispute amicably. In October, a Joint Commission Ministerial (JCM) meeting was held. During the formal discussion, Indonesia complied with Malaysia’s request to reduce its military presence. In the process, a Joint Working Group was set up to facilitate the management of this territorial dispute as well as other bilateral issues.

Resolution: The International Court of Justice
The dispute was eventually resolved when Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to submit their case to the Court in 1997. On 17 December 2002, the Court concluded that “sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan belonged to Malaysia”. Its basis was that Malaysia administered these islands over a considerable period of time and that Indonesia did not protest against these activities then. Both parties then respected the Court’s judgment.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that historical animosities were the main reason for the inter-state tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia after independence [to be discussed in class]?

Sign up for our JC History Tuition and learn how to consolidate your content effectively. Then, we conduct skills-oriented classes to show you how to apply the information in a structured and clear way. For instance, you will learn how to assess the reliability of sources based on the given factual information that you have seen in the sources as well as from your own knowledge.

Also, we have other JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - How effective was ASEAN in maintaining regional security - JC History Essay Notes

How effective was ASEAN in maintaining regional security?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 2: ASEAN (Growth and Development of ASEAN: Building regional peace and security)

Find out how ASEAN responded to the East Timorese Crisis that affected its intra-ASEAN relations, particularly Indonesia.

The Bali Summit: ASEAN Concord and TAC
Following the Bali Summit in February 1976, member states of ASEAN cooperated and produced two key documents: The ASEAN Concord and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). These agreements were formed in the wake of USA’s withdrawal from Indochina following the end of Vietnam War in April 1975. ASEAN members expressed their concerns over regional security due to the incoming tide of communist expansion in the region.

The ASEAN Concord was created to promote regional economic cooperation for the primary aim of regional security. For instance, the Preferential Trading Arrangements (PTA) was introduced to encourage intra-ASEAN cooperation so as to meet the economic demands of their respective countries. In subsequent years, economic ministers of the member states held annual meetings to oversee this aspect of development.

The TAC was introduced to promote the principle of non-interference and non-use of force so as to address inter-state tensions and maintain regional security. It is imperative to note that this form of political cooperation applied not only to ASEAN member states, but also for non-ASEAN countries.

A Test of Time: Indonesia’s Invasion of East Timor [December 1975]
Following the decision of the Portugal to relinquish its control of ‘Portuguese Timor’ (before it was known as East Timor) in 1974, local elections were held. Two major political parties, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) and the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) unified to form a coalition. Yet, internal fighting broke out and the UDT carried out a coup. The Fretilin then declared East Timor independence on 28 November 1975.

The Indonesian government perceived the rise of the left-wing Fretilin as a threat to its doorstep. The Suharto administration feared the creation of a communist East Timor could destabilise Indonesia.

As such, the government launched Operasi Seroja (Operation Lotus) on 7 December 1975. It was a full-scale military invasion that toppled the Fretilin-led government. In July 1976, Indonesia declared East Timor as its twenty-seventh province, signalling a successful and forceful annexation.

Although the United Nations condemned the act, other countries such as Australia recognised the annexation. Furthermore, ASEAN members regarded the political developments as a domestic issue, thus explaining their inaction. A more critical interpretation is that the ASEAN Way hamstrung the member states from criticising and antagonising Indonesia, given the strict adherence to the principle of non-interference.

A Role Model: ASEAN’s Response to the Vietnamese Invasion of Cambodia [December 1978]
In contrast to the East Timorese crisis, ASEAN demonstrated the effectiveness of its regional unity to the world by taking the lead in condemning the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.

In 1988, ASEAN facilitated the Jakarta Informal Meetings (1988-1990). It involved the disputing parties such as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). Notably, these closed-door meetings provided effective as a platform for conflict resolution.

ASEAN’s efforts had paid off after the great powers followed up with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on 23 October 1991 that marked the official end of the war.

However, it is also important to consider the improvements in the political climate by the mid-1980s that explained the successes of ASEAN’s diplomatic efforts. In particular, the willingness of Soviet Union and China to engage in political discussions to pressure Vietnam’s withdrawal was a vital factor.

Also, ASEAN’s decision to take the side of the USA and China in condemning Vietnam’s aggression conflicted with the principles of the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), since ASEAN initially rejected interference by external powers.

Concluding Remarks: Was ASEAN effective?
In view of these two case studies, we can conclude that ASEAN was faced with challenging circumstances to address various threats to regional security – ideological subversion and political interference. Therefore, some political leaders, historians and political observers have reconciled with these perceived contradictions to argue that certain conflicting actions were deemed necessary to achieve regional consensus.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the political effectiveness of ASEAN in response to the Third Indochina War [to be discussed in class].

Now that you have examined the case studies to analyse the applications of ASEAN’s political cooperation, it is important to attempt source-based case study questions for knowledge application. Join our JC History Tuition and learn to form logical arguments. We conduct essay writing and source based case study skills workshops to guide you through the writing process. More importantly, we teach you how to organise your points to complete these questions within the given time frame.

Additionally, you can join other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What the Singapore-Malaysia Water Dispute is about - JC History Essay Notes

What the Singapore-Malaysia Water Dispute is about

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: historical animosities & political differences

Dr Mahathir’s take on the water pricing issue that affected Singapore-Malaysia relations.

Historical Context: The ‘Water Agreements’
Singapore and Malaysia signed a total of four agreements to manage the water supply from the Causeway. It began with that first agreement that was signed on 5 December 1927, which allowed Singapore to rent land in Johor and import raw water from Gunong Pulai. Singapore paid an annual rent of 30 sen per acre. In return, Johor could obtain 800,000 gallons of treated water daily at a rate of 25 sen per 1,000 gallons.

The second agreement [known as the Tebrau and Scudai Rivers Water Agreement] was signed on 2 October 1961 in replacement of the previous agreement. Singapore was granted the rights to draw water from Gunong Pulai, Sungei Tebrau and Sungei Scudai for 50 years until 2011. Also, the self-governing state had to pay an annual rent of RM5 per acre and 3 sen for every 1,000 gallons of raw water it drew. In return, Singapore sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

The third agreement [known as the Johor River Water Agreement] was signed on 29 September 1962. This agreement was valid for 99 years until 2061. Based on this agreement, Singapore was entitled to draw 250 million gallons of water per day. Both parties agreed to maintain the water price, which is 3 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water.

After a six-year long process of tedious negotiations, the prime ministers of the two neighbouring countries, Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 28 June 1988. It led to the signing of the fourth agreement.

The fourth agreement was signed on 24 November 1990. It was meant to supplement the 1962 Agreement. Singapore was allowed to build a dam across Sungei Linggiu for the extraction of water from the Johor River. Singapore then borne the building and maintenance costs of the dam. In return, Singapore buy treated water from Johor via the newly-built dam.

Start of the Dispute: Post-Asian Financial Crisis
As the economies of Southeast Asia were increasingly affected by the currency crisis in 1997-1998, Singapore offered to provide a financial assistance package to Malaysia as a crisis response measure. Singapore proposed that in return for the package, Malaysia can continue to provide its water supply to Singapore even after the expiry of the water agreements.

However, the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir rejected the package. Instead, both parties discussed further to develop a more comprehensive package. In addition to the water supply issue after 2061, the package also considered other bilateral matters such as the Points of Agreement.

Considerations: Revisions in the price of raw water
On 4 March 2002, the pricing of raw water was to be revised to 60 sen per 1,000 gallons for the next five years (2002-2007). In the subsequent five years (2007-2011), it would then be revised to RM3 per 1,000 gallons. This was based on a letter that Dr Mahathir wrote to Mr Lee in February:

Johore is agreeable to revisions in the price of raw water that it now supplies to Singapore and the treated water that it buys from Singapore…

Johore believes that a fair price would be 60 cents per mgd of raw water. The price should be reviewed every five years.

Letter from Dr Mahathir to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 21 February 2001.

Furthermore, Malaysia proposed that the new water agreement would only be valid for 100 years from 2002. This meant that the new agreement would expire four decades after the end of the 1962 Agreement.

On 11 April 2002, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong replied Dr Mahathir and announced that Singapore will be self-reliant in the production of water as much as possible while keeping the current Water Agreements intact.

I do not want our bilateral relations to be always strained by the issue of water…Singapore will produce as much water by ourselves as we can, to supplement the existing Water Agreements.

Letter from Mr Goh Chok Tong to Dr Mahathir, 11 April 2002.

Achieving self-sufficiency: NEWater
Given the ever-growing demand for water, the Singapore Government concluded that it cannot solely depend on Malaysia’s water supply. In 1998, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) initiated a study to find out if NEWater was a viable alternative to the existing source of raw water. In 2003, the PUB launched the NEWater to public.Through the use of an advanced process (microfiltration and reverse osmosis), the PUB could treat reclaimed water effectively for human consumption and industrial use.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that economic issues were the main obstacle to Singapore-Malaysia relations after independence [to be discussed in class].

Join our JC History Tuition and apply your content knowledge to source-based case study questions. We conduct thematic review and question practice sessions to improve your writing skills for H2 and H1 History. Besides, we hold other relevant JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What the Malaysian Railway Land dispute is about - JC History Essay Notes

What the Malaysian Railway Land dispute is about

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: historical animosities & political differences

The last train departed from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, marking the end of its 79-years operation.

Historical Context: The Malayan Railway
Under the Railway Act of 1918, the British acquired 217 hectares of Singapore territory to develop the Malayan Railway for a period of 999 years. It was initially known as the Federated Malay States Railways (FSMR), which later became Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). The acquired land was to be used to establish the railway stations situated in Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Timah and Woodlands.

Points of Agreement
On 27 November 1990, a bilateral arrangement was made between Singapore and Malaysia to shift away from the Railway Act of 1918 and repeal the KTM Act of 1984. The Points of Agreement (POA) was signed by then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and then Finance Minister of Malaysia Tun Daim Zainuddin. The POA was made to undergo a joint development of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station as well as the lands adjacent to the KTM-owned railway track.

Additionally, the Tanjong Pagar railway station would be relocated either to Bukit Timah or directly to Kranji. The plan was to allow Singapore to reclaim Tanjong Pagar for future development. In exchange, Singapore offered a plot of land of equivalent value in the Marina South to the Malaysian company.

Origins of the Dispute: A deadlock
However, in 1993, disagreements emerged as Malaysia was unwilling to relinquish ownership of the Tanjong Pagar land. Instead, proposals were made to re-develop the existing KTM railway into a “Trans-Asian electric railway” that extended from Singapore to Kunming, China. Also, reluctance was expressed due to fears over the perceived loss of KTM’s land in Singapore.

In September 1993, both countries agreed to relocate their Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (WTCP) in Singapore by 1 August 1998. Yet, in June 1997, the Malaysian authorities “changed its mind” and chose to keep its CIQ at the Tanjong Pagar railway station. As such, both parties sent officials to discuss new arrangements in two occasions in July 1998 for the arrangements pertaining to the Malaysian CIQ.

The Woodlands Train Checkpoint
As a result of the meetings, both sides agreed to re-locate the CIQ to Woodlands Train Checkpoint on 1 August 1998. The Ministry of Home Affairs (Singapore) published a press release on 24 July 1998 to announce the changes.

Singapore will allow Malaysian customs officials to operate at Tanjong Pagar railway station. Singapore officials will be present at Tanjong Pagar railway station to lend their authority to Malaysian customs officials during the interim period.

Singapore has agreed to Malaysia’s request to allow Malaysian Immigration to put some desks for its immigration officers on the passenger platform at WTCP to clear passengers after Singapore has cleared them for exit from Singapore.

Press Release by Ministry of Home Affairs (Singapore), 24 July 1998.

Improvement of Bilateral Relations: The 2001 meeting
In September 2001, leaders of both Malaysia and Singapore held a closed-door meeting to resolve the railway land dispute. Prime Minister Lee reiterated to his Malaysian counterpart, Dr Mahathir, that the POA was a “legally binding agreement” and stated that Singapore offered a plot of land at Shenton Way in exchange for joint development. In this letter, the water dispute was also being mentioned.

3. On the POA, I would like to confirm that what I said was that “the POA is being varied to give the extra 12 plots of land at Bukit Timah and the CIQ, too”…The 1990 POA is a legally binding agreement…

4. According to Clause 7 of the POA, the MRA land at Keppel where the rail station is currently sited will be exchanged for a plot in Marina South of equivalent value for joint development by M-S Pte Ltd. It is in accordance with an option given in Plan 2 of the POA, as stated in my letter of 24 August 2000 to Tun Daim, that I had offered a plot at Shenton Way for this exchange, for joint development.

Letter by Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir, 10 December 2001.

Recent developments: 2010 arrangements
Although there was an impasse of nearly 2 decades, a landmark land swap deal was finally made between the two countries in 2010. Three plots of former railway land – Keppel, Kranji and Woodlands – as well as three plots in Bukit Timah would be exchanged for four parcels of land in Marina South and two parcels of land in Ophir-Rochor.

A new company, known as M+S, was set up for the joint development of Marina South and Ophir-Rochor parcels. However, there were disputes over the Bukit Timah plots as they were not stated in the POA. Both parties referred to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

The Singapore Government shall vest four land parcels in Marina South and two land parcels in Ophir-Rochor in M-S Pte Ltd, in lieu of the three parcels of POA land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands and three pieces of land in Bukit Timah.

The Marina South and Ophir-Rochor land parcels shall be vested in M-S Pte Ltd for joint development when Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) vacates the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (TPRS). The KTMB station will be relocated from Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint (“WTCP”) by 1 July 2011 whereby Malaysia would co-locate its railway Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (“CIQ”) facilities at WTCP.

Joint statement for meeting between PM Lee and PM Najib, implementations on the POA, 20 September 2010.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that historical animosities were the main reason for the changing Singapore-Malaysia relations after independence [to be discussed in class]?

Other useful references:
Why Singapore rejected a common currency with Malaysia?

Join our JC History Tuition and learn to organise your study for this topic on Regional Conflicts and Co-operation, as part of your source-based case study revision. We conduct class discussions to broaden your understanding of these issues and apply them to practice questions for knowledge review. Also, you can consider other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - Why did Konfrontasi happen - JC History Essay Notes

Why did Konfrontasi happen?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: territorial disputes

Learn more about the consequences of inter-state tensions during “The Confrontation”.
Watch the “Days of Rage” documentary to understand the significance of the event.

What is the Konfrontasi?
Also known as the “Confrontation”, it was Indonesia’s response to the formation of the British-influenced Federation of Malaysia. During the decolonisation process in Southeast Asia, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 31 August 1957.

In May 1961, Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman announced a proposal to form the Federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore and the British colonies in Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei). Initially, the Indonesian government did not raise any concerns regarding this proposal.

However, Indonesian President Sukarno criticised the formation of Malaysia, claiming that it was a form of British-led “neo-imperialism” that threatened the interests of Indonesia. On 20 January 1963, Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Subandrio announced a policy of Konfrontasi towards Malaysia.

Attempts to de-escalate tensions: Manila Accord
Nevertheless, both parties sought to defuse tensions through peaceful diplomatic means. In May 1963, both Sukarno and the Tunku held talks in Tokyo, Japan. The Tunku was in consensus of holding a referendum before the formation of the Federation, emphasising that the will of the people in the Borneo Territories was to be respected.

On 31 July 1963, the Manila Accord was signed between Malaya, Philippines and Indonesia. The Accord was initiated by the Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal. Its aim was to take into account the referendum in North Borneo and Sarawak, whether they supported their entry into the Federation of Malaysia.

In this context, the three Ministers supported President Macapagal’s plan envisaging the grouping of the three nations of Malay origin working together in closest harmony but without surrendering any portion of their sovereignty. This calls for the establishment of the necessary common organs…

The Federation of Malaya expressed appreciation for this attitude of Indonesia and the Philippines and undertook to consult the British Government and the Government of the Borneo territories with a view to inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative to take the necessary steps in order to ascertain the wishes of the people of those territories

Excerpts from the Manila Accord, 31 July 1963

However, Indonesia accused Malaysia of not abiding by the Manila Accord as the Tunku signed the London Agreement on 9 July which officially meant that the Federation was to be formed on 31 August.

An “Undeclared War”: The Confrontation
On 27 July 1963, President Sukarno gave a rousing speech and announced the Ganyang Malaysia (Crush Malaysia) campaign.

After it has become clear that our efforts have been rejected and responded to with humiliation and an act of hostility, as for instance the call for a general mobilization;

I give the command to the twenty-one million volunteers, who have already registered their names, to increase the strength of resistance of the Indonesian revolution and support the revolutionary peoples of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah to dissolve the puppet state of Malaysia.

Indonesian President Sukarno’s speech, May 1964

Two days after the formation of the Federation, the militarised confrontation began in Singapore and the Malaysian Peninsula. For instance, Singapore suffered a series of bomb explosions, including the MacDonald House incident (see featured video) on 10 March 1965.

The end of the Konfrontasi: 30 September Movement
The Konfrontasi came to an end partially due to the internal political division in Indonesia. On 1 October 1965, a failed coup attempt led by Indonesian military personnel had caused the deaths of six generals. Subsequently, General Suharto, the commander of the Indonesian reserve army, purged the communist threat (Partai Kommunis Indonesia, PKI) and replaced Sukarno as President.

In 1966, the newly-formed Indonesian government extended its offer for peace talks with Malaysia. Eventually, then-Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak, and then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik signed a peace treaty (Jakarta Accord) on 12 August 1966, thus marking the end of the Konfrontasi.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that the breakdown of the Indonesian-Malaysian relations was due to ideological differences [to be discussed in class]?

Now that you have covered the summary of the Confrontation, it is important that you apply your knowledge to source-based case study questions. You can also join our JC History Tuition. During our lessons, you will receive timeline and summary notes as well as exam-driven class practices to refine your reading and writing skills.

Sign up for other related JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - What is the Pedra Branca dispute - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Pedra Branca dispute?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions: territorial disputes

Learn more about other border disputes to understand the causes and consequences of inter-state tensions in Southeast Asia.

Historical Background
Pedra Branca is an island situated in the easternmost point of Singapore, between the Singapore Strait and South China Sea. The island is known to many sailors for years, given its strategic location as a internationally-recognised shipping route.

Following the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, Pedra Branca was within the British-influenced territory of the Johor Sultanate. In the 1850s, the British established the Horsburgh Lighthouse (not the featured article image).

From 1826 to 1946, the Straits Settlements administered the Pedra Branca island. Subsequently, Singapore took over.

Origins of the Dispute
On 21 December 1979, the Director of National Mapping of Malaysia published a map that depicted the island to be within its territorial waters. The map was titled ‘Territorial Waters and Continental Shelf Boundaries of Malaysia‘, which illustrated the inclusion of Pedra Branca, the ‘Middle Rocks’ and ‘South Ledge’ in its territory.

In response, Singapore delivered a diplomatic note on 14 February, requesting the map to be corrected. From then on, the territorial dispute began.

The conflict began to escalate in the 1980s as the Malaysian Marine Police entered the waters surrounding Pedra Branca several times.

Nevertheless, both parties exercised restraint and avoided direct confrontation. As such, political leaders from both governments engaged in discussions to defuse tensions.

International Arbitration: The ICJ
In 2003, Singapore and Malaysia signed an official agreement to defer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ carried out its proceedings in 2005 and the case was heard in November 2007.

From Singapore’s standpoint, it claimed sovereign rights over Pedra Branca based on the premise that it had managed the island over the years. For example, Singapore and its predecessors had investigated marine accidents in the vicinity, planned land reclamation works and installed naval communications equipment.

On the other hand, Malaysia undertook no action with respect to Pedra Branca from 1850 onwards. Furthermore, in 1953, the Acting Secretary of the State of Johor stated that they did not claim ownership of the island.

Conflict Resolution
In conclusion, the Court declared that the sovereignty of Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, whereas the surrounding Middle Rocks and South Ledge were granted to Malaysia.

Initially, the Malaysian Government expressed its intent to reconsider the Court’s ruling over the island. In May 2018, Malaysia chose to drop the two cases of revising and interpreting the judgment by ICJ.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the consequences of the Pedra Branca dispute on the management of inter-state tensions between Singapore and Malaysia [to be discussed in class].

Now that you have covered the general overview relating to this territorial dispute, it is imperative that you attempt source-based case study questions (Paper 2 – Making of Independent Southeast Asia) to review your knowledge application and writing skills.

Alternatively, you can join our JC History Tuition as we provide you with summarised content for each case study, outline references and additional practice questions. By doing so, you will be prepared thoroughly for the complexities of the GCE A Level History examinations.

Also, do consider joining our related JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.