Dr Mahathir and Johor Sultan argue over Pulau Batu Puteh

(Malaysia Now) – Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said allowing land reclamation by Singapore was a more serious disservice to the nation than abiding by the decision of the International Court of Justice declaring Pulau Batu Puteh as belonging to the republic, in a response to the Johor ruler’s criticism of Malaysia’s decision not to appeal the ruling.

Mahathir also dismissed Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar’s comparison of the disputed island to Langkawi, which is also the parliamentary constituency represented by the former prime minister.

He said unlike Batu Puteh which is claimed by Singapore, Langkawi has not been claimed by Thailand, or made the subject of an international legal case where two nations had agreed to abide by the outcome.

“On the other hand, the Johor government stated that it did not claim Pulau Batu Puteh as belonging to it.

“Later, Malaysia claimed that Pulau Batu Puteh belonged to Malaysia. This was then disputed by Singapore, hence the controversy,” he wrote.

Last week, Sultan Ibrahim criticised Mahathir’s decision that the Malaysian government would not appeal against the 2008 ruling by the ICJ that Batu Puteh, also known as Pedra Branca, belonged to Singapore.

“Was Johor’s sovereignty not important to the government at the time? Why were we treated like a stepchild state?

“How would Kedahans feel if Malaysia lost Langkawi to Thailand?” he had asked in a Facebook post.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced a special task force to study Malaysia’s options in its claim over Batu Puteh.

The 8,500 sq m island made up of granite rocks was awarded to Singapore in 2008 after both governments agreed to take their claim to the ICJ.

Sultan Ibrahim said the task force must find out the reasons behind Mahathir’s decision to accept the ICJ ruling and not to pursue a case review, adding that it was related to the country’s sovereignty.

But Mahathir reminded in his post that Malaysia had undertaken to abide by any decision by the ICJ, and said negotiations over the matter had been futile.

“A nation with dignity must honour its promise. If a nation does not honour its promise, no country will enter into any agreement with it, and it will become a pariah state,” he added.

Mahathir cited land reclamation by Singapore near Johor waters as an example of Malaysia’s sovereignty being undermined.

“If sand is sold for reclamation and to expand another country, it is no different than surrendering parts of the country to another nation.

“Today we sell lorryloads and shiploads of water and sand to another country for its expansion.

“Or we sell the seashores to be reclaimed, owned and occupied by others,” he said.

Mahathir, who has a rocky relationship with the Johor palace, had several times criticised an agreement for Johor to sell raw water to Singapore, saying the city-state has shortchanged Malaysia.

Mahathir and Sultan Ibrahim had also traded barbs over the controversial Forest City project, a mega development involving four artificial islands aimed at attracting Chinese home buyers.