Thursday, March 19, 2009

Limbang issue - who is right?

Pictures of Limbang, a border town, north of Sarawak, sandwiced between 2 areas of Brunei - Brunei proper and Temburong.

On Monday, The Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Sultan of Brunei, inked a historic exchange of letters at the Istana Nurul Iman, Bandar Seri Begawan, to formally resolve the long standing land and maritime borders issues between Sarawak and Brunei.

However, the next day, that statement was denied by Brunei 2nd Minister of foreign affairs and trade, Datuk Seri Lim Jock Seng.

So, i am confused here as to who is right and who is not right here???

This is the newsreport on that signing of exchange of letters on Monday by the star online.

Brunei drops claim over Limbang in Sarawak (Update3)


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN:In a historic move, Brunei has officially dropped its long-standing claim over Sarawak’s Limbang district, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Monday.

This was the result of the two countries resolving their various land and sea territorial disputes, he said.

"Brunei has decided to drop the Limbang issue and as a result, Limbang is part of Malaysian territory," he told a press conference with the Malaysian media at the Malaysian High Commission here.

"With this resolution, there are no more issues to haunt the close relationship between Brunei and Malaysia," he said.

The resolution was part of several disputes which were settled and sealed with the signing of Letters of Exchange by Abdullah and the Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hasannal Bolkiah at Istana Nurul Iman here on Monday.

The other disputes include questions over where the common maritime boundary of the two countries in the South China Sea should run, the rights to exploit potentially rich oil deposits in the disputed maritime territory, the right of movement by Malaysian vessels over Brunei waters and the demarcation of the common boundary of the two countries.

The dispute over Limbang can be traced back to the cession of the territory by Brunei to Sarawak's White Rajahs in 1890. The cession has been strongly disputed by the Sultanate which regarded the transfer as annexation by Sarawak.

The cession of Limbang resulted in a significant reduction of Bruneian territory and cut the sultanate into two parts.

On Monday, Abdullah thanked the Sultan for the resolution of the various disputes and especially that of Limbang.

He said bilateral relations between the two countries would now enter a new era.

On the points in the Letters of Exchange, Abdullah and the Sultan in a joint statement said they had reached agreement over the final maritime boundaries between the two countries in the South China Sea.

They also agreed to establish a "commercial arrangement area" where oil and gas revenue in the disputed area would be shared between the two countries. How much each country would get was however not disclosed.

The two countries also agreed to the existence of "unsuspendable rights of maritime access" which guaranteed the right of movement by Malaysia vessels through Bruneian territorial waters provided Brunei's laws and regulations are observed.

Lastly, the Letters of Exchange also established the methods to demarcate the land boundary between Brunei and Malaysia.

With the resolution of the maritime boundary delimitation issue, the leaders said the two countries would be able to embark on new developments in their respective areas.

The negotiations, which began in 1995, took 39 rounds of talks to reach resolution.

The dispute over maritime territory arose out of a 1979 map published by Malaysia which indicated that all deep sea territorial waters off the coast of Brunei belonged to Malaysia.

The latest incident related to the dispute over maritime territory occurred in 2003 when Malaysia and Brunei awarded petroleum production-sharing contracts to four exploration blocks in the disputed area, close to where a 440 million-barrel discovery had been made the year before.

Petronas awarded its two blocks to US oild firm Murphy Oil while Brunei awarded one of its blocks to France's Total, BHP Billiton and Hess Corp and the othr to Shell, Mitsubishi and Conoco-Phillips.

Following the dispute, both countries agreed to stop drilling activities in the area.

Earlier, before the signing ceremony, Abdullah had a four-eyed meeting with the Sultan at the Palace.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the resolution of the question over the ownership of Limbang would enable several projects in the Sarawak district, which could benefit Brunei to proceed.

He said one of them was the construction of a hydroelectric dam across the Sungai Limbang where electricity could be supplied to Brunei.

”This will bring Sarawak and Brunei closer together as we can supply electricity to Brunei,” he told a press conference at the Malaysia High Commission.

On whether the resolution of the Limbang question would bring about easier access between that district and the rest of Sarawak, Taib said the problem was more to do with finding a convenient practice for immigration and customs checks.

He said the two countries had already agreed to using indentity cards instead of passports and further fine-tuning of the procedures could enable easier passage of people passing through checkpoints on the Brunei-Malaysia border.

Limbang’s road network is cut off from the rest of Sarawak and those travelling to the district have to pass through two border checkpoints.

And on Tuesday 17 March, Brunei 2nd minister of foreign affairs and trade, was reported to have said this : (source Borneo Buletin, Bernama and The Star online)

Brunei: Limbang claim not discussed

MIRI: Brunei's Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Datuk Seri Lim Jock Seng has denied that claims on Limbang were discussed during the meeting between Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Speaking at the Brunei legislative council meeting on Tuesday, he said the discussion that led to the signing of the Letters of Exchange (LoE) in Bandar Seri Begawan on Monday was on the demarcation of land boundaries on the whole.

"Certain press reports yesterday (Monday) claimed that Brunei has dropped claims over Limbang. In fact, the claim on Limbang was never discussed," he was reported as saying by Brunei's local daily, Borneo Bulletin, Wednesday.

He said a joint press statement was issued after the meeting which mentioned that the demarcation of the land boundaries between the two countries would be resolved on the basis of five existing historical agreements between the Government of Brunei and the State of Sarawak, and, as appropriate, the watershed principle.

"After that, a working group comprising general surveyors of the two countries will follow with the technical aspect to solve the land border issue," Lim added. Abdullah, at a news conference with Malaysian journalists after the signing of the LoE on Monday, said that Brunei had officially dropped its longstanding territorial claim over Limbang, Sarawak's northernmost division.

He said the matter was part of the historic LoE inked between him and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at Istana Nurul Iman in Bandar Seri Begawan.

"It has been stated in the LoE that Brunei has dropped the issue and this means that Limbang is part of Malaysia," he was quoted as saying.

Limbang, located on the banks of Sungai Limbang between the two halves of Brunei and covering an area of 3,978 sq km with a population of more than 40,000, was annexed by James Brooke, the first Rajah of Sarawak, in 1890 as the fifth division of Sarawak. - Bernama

And this is an explanation by the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, today Thursday 19 March 2009.

Limbang, other border issues to be resolved: Rais


KUALA LUMPUR: Various border issues including Limbang will be resolved once re-demarcation works are completed, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

He said although the word “Limbang” was not mentioned during discussion at the Letters of Exchange ceremony between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, on Monday, the district issue will be regarded as resolved after the physical works are carried out.

(Disputes on land borders will be resolved) once the physical works of re-demarcation are completed in accordance with the principles of the five agreements,” he told reporters at a press conference in the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations here Thursday.

Two out of the five agreements, signed between 1920 and 1939, directly mentioned the Limbang district in the documents.

Dr Rais was responding to articles in the Brunei press that questioned the status of Limbang.

The reports quoted Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Datuk Seri Lim Jock Seng as denying that Limbang was discussed during the meeting between the Sultan and Abdullah.

“I hope this issue won’t be politicised despite their local media raising issues,” he said.

He added that both parties would have to wait between 12 and 18 months for the re-dermarcation works to be completed by the technical committee.

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