Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court - A Book Review
Pedra Branca is a small island near the entrance to the Straits of Malacca, a strategic waterway that connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. For decades, it was the subject of a territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore, two neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. How did they manage to resolve their conflict peacefully through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) What were the legal arguments and diplomatic maneuvers behind the scenes And what lessons can be learned from this case for other unresolved territorial disputes in Asia and beyond
These are some of the questions that are answered in Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court, a book written by S. Jayakumar and Tommy Koh, two prominent Singaporean diplomats and scholars who were personally involved in the case. The book provides a comprehensive and insider account of the history, politics and law of the Pedra Branca dispute, from its origins in the colonial era to its final resolution by the ICJ in May 2008.
The book is divided into seven chapters, each covering a different phase or aspect of the dispute. The first chapter explains how the dispute started in 1979, when Malaysia published a map that claimed Pedra Branca as part of its territory. The second chapter describes the political and diplomatic phase of the dispute, which lasted until 1989, when both countries agreed to submit their case to the ICJ. The third chapter narrates the negotiations over the Special Agreement that defined the scope and terms of reference of the ICJ proceedings. The fourth chapter recounts the preparations for the oral and written pleadings before the ICJ, including the selection of international counsel and experts, the gathering of evidence and documents, and the coordination between different agencies and stakeholders. The fifth chapter gives a detailed account of the oral hearings before the ICJ in November 2007, highlighting the main arguments and counter-arguments presented by both sides. The sixth chapter analyses the judgment of the ICJ delivered on 23 May 2008, which awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks to Malaysia, and left South Ledge as a maritime feature whose sovereignty depends on whose territorial waters it falls within. The seventh chapter reflects on the implications and significance of the judgment for both countries and for international law and relations.
The book is written in a clear and accessible style, with numerous maps, photos and diagrams to illustrate key points. It also includes several annexes that contain important documents related to the case, such as the Special Agreement, the summary of the judgment, and excerpts from speeches and statements by various officials. The book is not only informative but also engaging, as it reveals some of the personal anecdotes, challenges and emotions experienced by the authors and their colleagues throughout their involvement in the case.
Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court is a valuable contribution to the literature on international law and dispute settlement. It offers a rare insight into how a complex and sensitive territorial dispute can be handled peacefully and professionally through legal means. It also demonstrates how two countries can maintain good relations despite having a longstanding disagreement over sovereignty. The book is highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more about Pedra Branca or about international law and diplomacy in general. aa16f39245