Sabah NGO challenging Territorial Sea Act in court

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Johan Arriffin Samad

KOTA KINABALU (Sept 15): A Sabah non-governmental organisation has filed a lawsuit to contest the validity of a federal law that restricts the state’s ability to control its waters.

The Territorial Sea Act of 2012 (TSA), which restricts the state’s maritime boundaries to just three nautical miles, was challenged in court, according to the Sabah Action Body Advocating Rights (Sabar) in a statement on Friday.

In agreement with the colonial-era directive from 1954, Sabah’s seas extended up to its continental shelf, according to Sabar chairman Johan Arriffin Samad.

He claimed that in accordance with a UK ruling, it also comprised the seabed and subsoil that lie beneath the high seas.

Additionally, TSA was rejected by the Sabah government because, in accordance with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, it would have been more challenging for the state to enforce its own regulations in cases involving accidents that occurred more than three nautical miles from land.

Moreover, at the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Implementation Action Council earlier this year, Hajiji had previously rejected the TSA and demanded a restoration of its rights to its waters.

Since in the past, activists claimed that Sabah’s boundaries would be recognised by the Federal Constitution when it united with Malaya, Sarawak, and Singapore to establish Malaysia.

Furthermore, they claimed that according to Sabah’s own land rules, land includes sea that reaches the continental shelf and is subject to state permission for oil exploration up to a distance of 200 nautical miles.

The campaigners claimed that as land matters fell only under the purview of the state, the federal statute that restricts Sabah’s authority to just three nautical miles from its shores was unconstitutional.