KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — The search for a missing document is mounted by the Foreign Ministry in a new effort by Malaysia to regain sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh which has been awarded by the International Court of Justice to Singapore on May 23.

There may be a huge complication, though. It may lead to Singapore having custody of this old letter written by British Governor William T. Butterworth seeking approval from the Sultan of Johor to build the Horburgh Lighthouse on Batu Puteh or Pedra Branca, as the island republic calls it.

However, the best possibility is that the British, known for meticulously collating historical records, would have it, if it still exists.

But why go through all this trouble when ICJ rulings are not subject to appeal? Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim believes there is a loophole — judicial review of a case within 10 years.

“If we can gain sight of that letter, the gate can be opened again. There is a maximum 10-year period but preferably it should be done within six years,” Rais told The Sunday Star.

“The letter could be in London, the British being too good at archiving. We have searched with them but it has not been conclusively proven that they don’t have it.

“Probably it is in Singapore. That would be a double jeopardy.”

Malaysia has already made a request to track down the letter in Singapore in 1994, believing it to be filed under “Letters to Native Rulers”. Singapore did not respond to the request.

In preparing for the ICJ case, the Malaysian legal team had covered 40 institutions in 11 countries.

If the letter is found, Malaysia could introduce a separate motion to the ICJ

While the ICJ ruled in favour of the republic on Batu Puteh, it awarded Middle Rocks to Malaysia and ruled that another marine feature South Ledge belonged to the country in whose territorial waters it is located.

Rais also told the Star he’s proposing that the waters off Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge be opened to fishermen from both countries and also Indonesia.

Wisma Putra secretary-general Tan Sri Rastam Mohamed Isa has led a team of officials to the republic on Wednesday to get discussions going. Rais also heads the technical committee for Malaysia set up to determine the South Ledge issue.