Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has denied that the state land is being “pawned” (gadai) with regard to the Forest City project.

The ruler described the project as a catalyst for the state’s development.

“When did Johor pawn its land? What does gadai (pawn) even mean?

“With Forest City, Johor will grow. We are not just pawning the land away,” he was quoted as saying by Berita Harian in an exclusive interview with the Media Prima Group.

Sultan Ibrahim said the project is split into zones – an international zone and another reserved for locals.

The international zone, he explained, is not meant for foreign buyers alone. He pointed out that 40 percent of the investment in the area came from locals, including the federal government.

“In Forest City, we are not selling land, we are selling strata titles… the land will remain Johor’s,” he added.

Critics, such as former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, have linked the Forest City project to Malaysia’s sovereignty being compromised, especially in the hands of China.

Sultan Ibrahim (photo) said Forest City has not only raised the income of the state as a whole but made the people in the area richer, such as those in the district of Pontian.

“The price of land in Forest City is increasing. The people of Pontian used to just pick duku. Now they have Mercedes Benz (cars),” he added.

Ruler supports Batu Puteh claim

Meanwhile, Berita Harian also reported that Sultan Ibrahim supported the Malaysian application for an interpretation of the International Court of Justice’s decision on the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh (Pedra Branca).

In May 2008, the ICJ had ruled that Singapore had sovereignty of the island outcrop based on documents obtained from British archives, settling a nearly three-decade dispute.

Sultan Ibrahim asked the people of Johor to “pray” for the ICJ to reverse its decision in favour of Malaysia, adding that Singapore could continue to co-administer Pulau Batu Puteh if sovereignty is given to Malaysia.

“If the upcoming ICJ decision favours Johor, we can still work with Singapore… Johor can cooperate with Singapore in the administration of the Horsburgh Lighthouse (on the island).

“If this case is ruled in favour of Johor, I have no objection to Singapore wanting to administer Batu Puteh,” said the ruler, pointing to Johor’s agreement with Singapore over Pulau Pisang, which the former owns and the latter administers.

“But if the ICJ decision favours Johor, Singapore must accept that Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to Johor,” he added.

The ruler also said that administration is a relatively minor issue in the light of Malaysia’s ICJ application.

“That is a small matter. The claim is over ownership, the administration is not even mentioned. What we want is for Pulau Batu Puteh to be Johor’s forever. That is Johor’s sovereign right,” he said.

Malaysia’s application for the 2008 ICJ decision to be interpreted was filed last July.

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said at the time that interpretation was necessary, as a bilateral committee set up to implement the judgment of the case had reached an “impasse” over what it means.

Any interpretation of the ICJ decision in Malaysia’s favour would also affect the nearby Pulau Batuan Tengah (Middle Rocks) and Pulau Tubir Selatan (South Ledge).

– M’kini