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JC History Tuition Online - What are the Points of Agreement of 1990 - Interstate Tensions

What are the Points of Agreement of 1990?

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

Historical context
In 1990, then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and the Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin signed a Points of Agreement (POA). The POA was a declaration that the Malayan Railway station would no longer occupy the land at Tanjong Pagar. In exchange, a joint venture company would be formed to develop a plot of land of equivalent value in Marina South.

In 1993, both countries were supposed to move the Customs, Immigrations and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities in Tanjong Pagar to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint by 1 August 1998. Yet, in that same year, Zainuddin informed Lee on behalf of the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the government had to re-look at the terms of the POA.

Points of Contention: The POA
As such, disputes arose due to differing views over the terms stated in the POA. The following was taken from a reflection made by the former Secretary General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malaysia about the matter.

Daim Zainuddin had the mandate from Mahathir Mohamad to secretly negotiate and sign the POA of 1990 with Lee Kuan Yew. That Mahathir Mohamed apparently changed his mind three years later could only indicate another thing: either Daim Zainuddin had exceeded his mandate when he signed the final version of the POA, or certain provisions in the final version had changed the character of the document, thus inviting the disapproval of Mahathir Mohamad.

An excerpt from “Malaysia-Singapore Fifty Years of Contentions: 1965-2015” by Kadir Mohamad.

On 1 August 1998, when Singapore re-located its CIQ from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands, Malaysia stood its ground, sowing confusion among the travellers and local authorities in Singapore. Subsequently, Singapore published its official correspondence with the Malaysian government.

Tun Daim too does not consider the POA to be of “treaty” status but simply points of agreement between the two Governments signed by him and Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister of Singapore in November 1990.

… As disagreements had arisen over its interpretation and status, Singapore offered to refer it to arbitration or, if both sides agreed, to submit it to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

An excerpt from “Malaysia: Fifty Years of Diplomacy 1957-2007” by Jeshurun Chandran.

The Singapore government had made clear emphasis in its press release through the Ministry of Law that the POA was an agreement signed between two governments that came into effect on 27 November 1990.

The relocation of Malaysia’s rail CIQ operations from Tanjong Pagar to its own territory is a completely different and separate issue from the POA and status of Malayan Railway land in Singapore or the railway station at Tanjong Pagar. It is the sovereign right of any country to check entry into its territory at its borders as is done for ships, cars and aeroplanes between Singapore and other countries, including Malaysia.

An excerpt from a press statement issued by the Ministry of Law, 8 July 1998.

Negotiations
Afterwards, the Singapore government sought to address the matter amicably through further negotiations.

On 4 March 2002, Prime Minister Mahathir wrote a letter to Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, giving his stand on the POA issue. Mahathir stated that Malaysia would resume operations of railway service to Tanjong Pagar and that the Malaysian CIQ in Tanjong Pagar would be relocated in Johor Bahur. However, Malaysia is to be given “adequate compensation for all MRA land south of Kranji”.

Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong responded to Mahathir’s letter on 11 April as seen below:

2. Railway

I note that you have decided to relocate your CIQ to Johor Baru.

… I recall, however, that you had proposed at our meeting in Hanoi in 1998, to relocate your railway station to Kranji. I agreed to this proposal in my meeting with Abdullah Badawi when he visited Singapore in February last year. I confirm here that Singapore is prepared to accommodate such a variation to the POA within the bilateral package.

An excerpt from a letter by the Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong to Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad, 11 April 2002.

However, negotiations had stalled as Mahathir replied to Goh’s letter on 7 October that Malaysia had decided to discontinue the discussions. In March 2008, when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assumed leadership in the Malaysian government, the new Foreign Minister Rais Yatim restarted negotiations with Singapore. In particular, Yatim acknowledged the 1990 POA as a ‘valid and legally binding document’.

Notably, both parties were undergoing proceedings in resolving the Pedra Branca dispute in the same year.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that the Malaysian railway land dispute was effectively managed by Singapore and Malaysia?

Join our JC History Tuition to study other examples that explained the causes and consequences of inter-state tensions in independent Southeast Asia. The H2 and H1 History Tuition feature online discussion, class practices and post-practice review. We also conduct free timed practices for students to assess their level of competency in answering essay and source based case study questions.

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JC History Tuition Online - What is the Sabah dispute - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Sabah 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

Historical Context: The Malaysian Federation
Before the Malaysian Federation was formed, the Cobbold Commission was held to assess the willingness of the people in the North Borneo territories to support the merger. Later, the Commission concluded that about ‘one third’ were in favour of the Federation.

Yet, both Indonesia and the Philippines rejected the results of the Commission. Then, a tripartite meeting was conducted in Manila, in an attempt to resolve the differences among three, including Malayan Prime Minister Tunku.

12. The Philippines made it clear that its position on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to North Borneo. The Ministers took note of the Philippine claim and the right of the Philippines to continue to pursue it in accordance with international law and the principle of the pacific settlement of disputes. They agreed that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder.

An excerpt from the Manila Accord, 31 July 1963.

The conclusion of the meeting was marked by the signing of the Manila Accord by the Philippine president Macapagal, Indonesian president Sukarno and the Tunku. All parties had expressed their desires to respect the wishes of the people in North Borneo, should the United Nations establish another commission to confirm the general opinion.

Nearly two months later, the United Nations Malaysia Mission report was submitted by the Secretary-General U Thant on 14 September 1963. The report stated that “majority of the peoples of Sabah (North Borneo) and of Sarawak, have given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future, and to the implications for them of participation in a Federation of Malaysia”.

However, the findings were again rejected by the claimants. Two key incidents occurred as a result of the Federation – the Confrontation and ‘Operation Merdeka’.

Conflicting Claims
From the Philippines’ perspective, Sabah was rightfully under their control, citing historical basis for their claims. In 1704, the Sultan of Brunei ceded the North Borneo territory to the Sultan of Sulu for quelling an internal rebellion. In the 19th century, major powers like Great Britain and Spain had recognised the Sultan of Sulu’s sovereignty over the territory.

In 1878, the Sultan of Sulu signs a contract of permanent lease with Baron von Overbeck and Alfred Dent. The rights over Sabah were transferred to the British North Borneo Company, in exchange for annual payments of 5,000 Malayan dollars.

However, Malaysia maintained its position that the North Borneo Company had ceded territorial rights of Sabah to Britain in 1946, thereby making it a British colony.

Visual illustration of the disputed claims over Sabah [Illustration by The Economist]

On 15 October 1968, the Philippine government brought the Sabah dispute to the United Nations General Assembly. In his address, the President Fidel Ramos proposed to submit the case to the International Court of Justice.

38. It is obvious even from a cursory examination of the documents to be considered in the determination of the issues involved in the dispute that the International Court of Justice is the organ of the United Nations that should take cognizance of the dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia. It is the body best suited to handle such a complex dispute.

39. In that case that Malaysia agrees to elevate the dispute to the Court, the Philippines will be prepared to abide by whatever decision that judicial body may render. If the decision of the Court is in favour of Malaysia, that will be the end of the Philippine claim. If the decision is in favour of the Philippines, that will not be the end of the case. For the Philippines is committed to the principle of self-determination and would be prepared to ensure the observance of that principle in Sabah.

An excerpt from the official records of the Twenty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 15 October 1968.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the implications of the Sabah dispute on bilateral relations between the Philippines and Malaysia in the 1960s.

Join our JC History Tuition to learn more about regional conflicts and co-operation, such as the Confrontation. Our H2 and H1 History Tuition classes are conducted online to broaden your understanding of different topics and refine your writing techniques for essay and SBCS.

We have 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 Tuition, Secondary Math tuition, Secondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. For Primary Tuition, we have Primary English Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.