KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The High Court here today allowed an application by the Prime Minister and the Government of Malaysia for documents in a suit regarding the withdrawal of a review application over the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision on Pulau Batu Puteh claim to not be disclosed to parties not involved in the case.
Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, representing the Prime Minister and the Government of Malaysia, as the defendants, said Judge Datuk Rozana Ali Yusoff made the ruling after allowing the application by the two parties for a protection order which was filed on Nov 29 last year.
“The court set March 1 for further case management,” he said when contacted by reporters after the online hearing of the application which was also attended by senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan.
Lawyer Mohaji Selamat, representing Mohd Hatta Sanuri, who was named the plaintiff in the suit, when contacted also confirmed the matter.
Based on the notice of application, the defendants had sought an order that all materials and documents presented as exhibits in any interlocutory application and trial of the suit may only be disclosed to parties in the case, counsel representing the plaintiff and defendants , trial witnesses, as well as parties deemed necessary by the court.
They also sought an order that the parties given access to the confidential documents shall at all times maintain the confidentiality of documents including not disclosing them to any party other than those authorised by the court.
Apart from that, printed copies of documents in the case, (if necessary) be ordered to be kept securely by the judge hearing the case.
They also sought an order to ensure the confidential documents are not categorised as public and cannot be opened for inspection or to be copied in any form, including for online inspection by e-filing other than requesting that the proceedings and trial of the case be conducted behind closed doors.
The application was made on the grounds, among others, the documents and information to be disclosed in the suit had the status of classified documents and top secret status under the Official Secrets Act 1972.
“The documents and information to be disclosed in the suit must be protected to avoid any misunderstanding and to maintain good relations between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of Singapore, and the protection order is to prevent the material and information contained in the confidential documents being manipulated and misused by irresponsible parties, ” as stated in the application by the two defendants.
In 2018, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government under the leadership of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad withdrew an application to overturn ICJ’s ruling awarding legal jurisdiction of Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11, 2018.
On May 28, Mohd Hatta, 45, filed the suit on his behalf and on behalf of the more than 32 million Malaysians affected by the withdrawal of the review application, without discussing and tabling it first in Parliament.
In his statement of claim, Mohd Hatta sought an order for the defendants to provide a written explanation as to why they had withdrawn from the review of the ICJ’s decision on June 1, 2018, when a review application with strong evidence had been initiated and filed since Feb 3, 2017.
The plaintiff also sought a declaration that the defendants were negligent, committed treason, fraud and breach of trust against all Malaysians including the plaintiff when they dropped the review bid.
He also sought a declaration for the two defendants to pay compensation to each Malaysian based on the land value of Pulau Batu Puteh and based on the economic losses suffered by all Malaysians including the plaintiff, equally, amounting to at least RM10 million each.
An order was also sought for both defendants to disclose in detail the total cost incurred by the second defendant (government) for the preparation of the ICJ decision review application on Feb 3, 2017, until the defendants abruptly withdrew the application on June 1, 2018.