MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



10 APRIL 2024

Monday, January 31, 2022

Govt obtains sealing order over OSA doc in Pulau Batu Puteh suit


All Official Secrets Act-stamped material and documentary exhibits in a lawsuit over Malaysia’s 2018 withdrawal of a review bid over the country’s sovereignty dispute with Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh is now no longer accessible to the public.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning allowed an application by the prime minister and the Malaysian government for a sealing order over the exhibits.

In effect, this means that now only parties in the suit and their legal teams, witnesses in the hearing, and certain parties with court leave can access the exhibits in question.

On May 28 last year, Malaysian citizen Mohd Hatta Sanuri filed the lawsuit to reverse the Malaysian government’s 2018 decision to withdraw its review application against the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that awarded the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh (also known as Pedra Branca) to Singapore.

The withdrawal decision was made by the then Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led Pakatan Harapan administration.

According to a copy of the sealing order application, the government sought the order as the exhibits, which involved Malaysia’s diplomatic relations with Singapore, are stamped as “Rahsia Besar” under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

The government contended that the documents and information revealed in the proceedings need to be protected to prevent any misunderstanding and safeguard the positive bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

The effect of today’s High Court ruling also means that such OSA-stamped documents will no longer be accessible to members of the public via the online e-filing system.

Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly @ Arwi, who represented the premier and the government, confirmed that the High Court allowed their application during an online hearing via Zoom this morning.

He said today’s hearing was over two applications by the premier and the government, with one of the bids being the sealing order.

“The court granted both applications,” Hanir said when contacted today.

When contacted today, Hatta's counsel Mohaji Selamat also confirmed that the court allowed the government's bid for a sealing order over the OSA documents linked to the suit.

The lawyer explained that while they respect the court's decision, he pointed out that his client objected to the government's sealing order application during today's online hearing.

Mohaji said they contended the revealing of the documents would not jeopardise the good bilateral relation between Malaysia and Singapore as the island republic was previously reported to be happy with Malaysia's decision to withdraw the review bid with ICJ.

"So why seek for the documents to be made available only to parties in the suit and not to members of the public in regards to the decision to retract (the review with ICJ) when three years have passed?

"The review application at the ICJ involved taxpayers' monies. So taxpayers need to see also what were the reasons given (for the withdrawal of the review bid with ICJ)," Mohaji said.

Checks on the online cause list showed that the legal action is fixed for further case management before the High Court on March 1.

The rocky outcrop, no more than half the size of a football field, is known as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia and Pedra Branca in Singapore. It is located about 15km off Peninsular Malaysia’s southern coast.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiff Hatta, 45, contended that he is suing on behalf of himself and 32 million other Malaysian citizens.

According to him, all Malaysians were affected by the defendants’ unilateral act of withdrawal of the ICJ review application without first tabling and discussing it in Parliament.

He claimed that the government until now has not given an explanation for the withdrawal of the ICJ review application in light of alleged new evidence that favours Malaysia’s side in the bid for sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh.

Among the court orders sought by the plaintiff is for the two defendants to give a written explanation on the reason for the withdrawal of the ICJ review application and for a declaration that they have been negligent and breached the trust of all Malaysian citizens.

Hatta seeks a declaration for the defendants to pay around RM10 million compensation to Malaysian citizens.

He is also seeking an order, among others, for the defendants to reveal in detail the total cost spent by the government to prepare the ICJ review application on Feb 3, 2017 until the defendants suddenly retracted it as confirmed by ICJ on June 1, 2018.

Hatta is represented by law firm Messrs Mohaji, Hazury & Ismail. - Mkini

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