(File pix) Umno’s Strategic Communications Unit, in a statement, said Pulau Batu Puteh has formed part of the nation’s maritime territory and sovereignty since the Johor Empire in the 16th century.

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno has questioned the government’s decision to give priority to the ownership of the Spratly Islands, which is located thousands of kilometres away, instead of Pulau Batu Puteh, which lies only 12.8 nautical miles (23.7 km) from the country’s borders.

Umno’s Strategic Communications Unit, in a statement, said Pulau Batu Puteh has formed part of the nation’s maritime territory and sovereignty since the Johor Empire in the 16th century.

It said logically, Pulau Batu Puteh should also be claimed based on existing documents and submitted again to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“Umno cannot accept the logic behind Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s and Pakatan Harapan’s ‘game’ in the case of Pulau Batu Puteh, or Pedra Branca, as the claim on it was made even when Dr Mahathir was the country’s fourth prime minister.

“We support Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian’s wish to meet Dr Mahathir to negotiate the Pulau Batu Puteh issue as well as that of the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project with Singapore.

“Was the decision to drop Malaysia’s claim on Pulau Batu Puteh among the items agreed upon in the negotiations between Dr Mahathir and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month as a ‘condition’ to cancel the HSR?” it asked.

Umno said, if this was the case, then the government appears to have peddled away its dignity and sovereignty to preserve its interests with a neighbouring country. This, said the party, is unacceptable, especially for the people of Johor.

At the same time, Umno also welcomed the prime minister’s statement that Malaysia must press on with its claim over islands in the South China Sea.

This, said the party, reflected the government’s concern over matters pertaining to the country’s sovereignty and claim on Pulau Layang-Layang, which it holds and had developed.

“However, Umno finds it odd that he (Dr Mahathir) chose to drop the country’s claim on Pulau Batu Puteh owned by Johor, which is located only 12.8 nautical miles from Malaysia’s borders.

“It appears that the government places greater importance on the Spratly Islands - which is 1,688 km away - as the only aspect that needs to be defended,” it said.

Umno, said the statement, is questioning the actions of the Cabinet as well as the rakyat, especially Pakatan Harapan supporters who are remaining silent when Malaysia’s claim on Pulau Batu Puteh was dropped.

“Are they afraid of going against Dr Mahathir, who practices politics of 'corporate and legalistic entity?' In other words, they concur with all of the prime minister’s decision, as if he made the decisions unilaterally and cannot be objected by anyone else,” he said.

Umno, said the statement, hopes that the issue of Pulau Batu Puteh will return to the negotiation table of the prime minister and the Johor Menteri Besar.

Umno said there is no use in speaking of integrity and the country’s sovereignty if one can so easily accede to personal political interest.

“It is dismaying to note that his authoritarian style and era is being practiced yet again in this cyber age, as seen in his directive to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to focus on digging up the faults of the previous administration, to the extent of canceling any projects initiated by the former government due to revenge.

“If this practice of vengeance remains commonplace among PH, the people will face a muddled administration when Malaysia’s foreign policies should be uniform in preserving its sovereignty, even with a change of government.”



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