CNA Explains: Why has Malaysia launched a royal inquiry into the Pedra Branca dispute?

Politics expert James Chin of the University of Tasmania echoed similar sentiments, pointing out that it was in the interest of many Malaysians for the federal government’s handling of the matter to be divulged fully.

“I think this is one of those issues which the Malaysian public want a full accounting of,” he said.

“It’s important for this issue to be investigated because many Malaysians were very surprised by the ICJ findings … and lots of people in Johor are unhappy that they lost the islands.”

Analysts also speculated that the RCI may have been convened with the support of Johor’s ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, who will be appointed the country’s king on Wednesday.

Dr Azmi said Sultan Ibrahim has been vocal on the issue given the proximity of the disputed islands, and that he would likely be keen for the RCI to proceed. 

“The selection of the commission will need to be recognised by the new Yang Di Pertuan Agong when he is elected … so I think yes, the timing of the convening of this RCI has something to do with the Sultan of Johor,” he added. 

In June 2022, Sultan Ibrahim told the Johor State Assembly he was “bitterly disappointed” by the federal government’s decision to cancel the appeal of ICJ’s decision. 

“The Johor state government was not consulted at all, especially given that it is a sovereign land of Johor. I want the government to act firmly against the individuals who acted against the rights of the state,” he said. 

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said that while the Cabinet has approved the formation of the RCI, the appointment of its members will need consent from Sultan Ibrahim.

“It will only be executed with the formal appointment and swearing-in of the new king,” said Dr Ahmad Zahid. 

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