Mahathir: Stealing billions not an issue but Pulau Batu Puteh is

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Malaysia must abide by its promise to accept the ICJ’s decision as final.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has criticised the priorities of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government after it decided to set up a committee to investigate the decision to abandon a judicial review application against the Pulau Batu Puteh case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ had in 2008 ruled that the disputed Pulau Batu Puteh belonged to Singapore. The Pakatan Harapan government under Mahathir decided in 2018 that it won’t file a judicial review.

Mahathir said the move was less about the merits of the case but an attempt to target him and give him a bad name.

He also maintained that that Malaysia must abide by its promise to accept the ICJ’s decision as final.

“When other countries say we have a thief as a prime minister until we are called a kleptocracy, that is not an issue. He stole billions, it’s not an issue. Kiss his hand and call him BossKu.

Bernama

“But when we hold to our promise (on Pulau Batu Puteh), it becomes an issue. The one who steals billions, we give him back his money, we let him go overseas.

“We give a convict very good treatment,” Mahathir said during an online forum on Pulau Batu Puteh last night.

He did not mention names but appeared to be referring to former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak who was convicted for the misappropriation of state-owned SRC International Sdn Bhd fund. Najib is appealing the case.

Mahathir questioned the government’s goal in focusing on a small island over many pressing issues.

“What is our value? We downplay major things, but we play up small things simply because we can, to suit someone. That is ill intention,” he said.

The government had on Oct 9 announced the setting up of a special task force to look into the judicial review application and whether the Harapan government was negligent in dropping the application.

Johor’s sale of Singapore

Mahathir’s decision not to file a judicial review was also criticised by Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Mahathir said compared to the small island of Pulau Batu Puteh, much bigger territories had been lost, including Johor’s sale of Singapore.

He added that the Riau Islands, which were originally part of the Johor empire, had also been lost to Indonesia.

Mahathir said there were also other more important disputes with Singapore, but the government has refused to pursue them.

“We sell 1,000 gallons of water to Singapore at three sen that was determined in 1926. Today three sen can’t even buy a packet of nasi lemak.

“I addressed it (when I was prime minister) but after I resigned, the subsequent governments want to maintain a good relationship with Singapore… that is okay,” he added.

The special task force to look into the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute will be led by former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Apandi was forced to resign as the attorney-general after Mahathir came to power in 2018.

Apandi was responsible for clearing Najib of any criminal wrongdoing and refused to prosecute him.

However, under Mahathir, Najib was slapped with various graft, abuse of power, and money laundering charges involving the 1MDB scandal.

Najib was also sentenced to 12 years in prison over the SRC case, a former 1MDB subsidiary. He is still free pending an appeal.

Best to abide by ICJ’s decision

Mahathir said the government had consulted an international panel of lawyers after claims of new evidence in the Pulau Batu Puteh case.

However, he said the panel, after scrutinising the case, found that it was best to abide by the ICJ’s decision.

A similar case is the Pulau Sipadan and Ligitan dispute with Indonesia which was also brought to the ICJ, the two-time former premier added.

Mahathir said in that case, the ICJ ruled in favour of Malaysia and Indonesia had respected the decision of the court despite unhappiness in the country.

Meanwhile, lawyer Nizam Bashir, who was part of the forum panel, pointed out that no judicial review had succeeded since the founding of the ICJ.

“Only six judicial reviews have been filed since the ICJ was founded in 1946 and none of them succeeded,” he said. – Malaysiakini