On common ground
by Peter Sibon, email@example.com. Posted on August 9, 2012, Thursday
Sarawak political leaders transcend political divide in calling for review on petroleum royalty for the state
KUCHING: State leaders from both sides of the political divide strike a common ground in calling for the federal government to review the five per cent petroleum royalty paid to Sarawak in the past four decades.
Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Dr James Masing said the proposed special committee to be set up by the federal government to look into the petroleum royalties to the East Coast states should include Sarawak and Sabah.
“Since Sarawak and Sabah are the main contributors to the national petroleum production, both states’ royalties of five per cent should therefore be reviewed and revised,” Masing told the Borneo Post here yesterday.
However, Masing stressed that the quantum for Sarawak should be based on the recommendation of the special committee which must include people from the state.
Last week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had announced the Government’s decision to set up a special committee to study the petroleum royalties to the East Coast states.
Najib had said that the committee was given six months to study the matter before making recommendations to the federal government.
Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had also said that the setting up of such a committee would put to rest all questions surrounding the royalty payment.
Nazri said the formation of the panel could also be due to Najib’s own father, the second prime minister who had earlier promised royalties to oil producing states.
“The history is long with this matter. It went back to the time when Tun Abdul Razak Hussein told the Dewan Rakyat about giving oil royalties back in the 1970’s. So based on the speech, maybe Najib felt that something needed to be done and that’s why a committee was formed,” said Nazri in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
Concurring that a review was timely, DAP state chairman
Wong Ho Leng said the Pakatan Rakyat had actually demanded that both Sarawak and Sabah be given 20 per cent as both states are considered “still far lagging behind in terms of infrastructure development”.
“Even our chief minister in his winding up speech during the last DUN Sitting acknowledged that the state is actually at least 20 years behind Peninsular Malaysia in terms of infrastructure development,” he said.
Wong pointed out that the state’s five per cent oil royalty “was forced upon us in the 70’s without true negotiation”.
“Even the BN component parties from both Sarawak and Sabah have requested that oil royalty be reviewed on many occasions.”
Wong also stressed that with more money from oil royalty, Sarawak which he claimed was currently the fourth poorest state in the country and Sabah as the poorest would have more money to spend on development.
“It is the duty of the federal government to look into interests of Sarawak and Sabah to bring them at par with at least some of the states in West Malaysia,” said Wong, who is also Bandar Sibu and Bukit Assek assemblyman.
PBB and state BN deputy women chief Datuk Fatimah Abdullah opined that since the agreement on the five per cent was made more than four decades ago, it was time for it to be reviewed now.
“Petroleum production has increased due to technology advancement which means revenue would also increase. So it is only logical that the quantum should be reviewed,” she said.
Fatimah who is also the Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development said Sarawak was still in dire need for better school facilities especially in the rural areas where most of them were built by the local councils in the 1960’s.
Assistant Minister of Public Health and Bengoh assemblyman Dr Jerip Susil believed that the state leaders were aware of the right quantum to be given by Petronas.
“But we must be aware that oil and gas exploration and prospecting could be very costly. So the present five per cent is better than nothing. The bottom line is of course if there is a review on the issue, Sarawak should be included as well, as we are one of the major contributors of petroleum in the country,” said Dr Jerip.
State BN and PBB and youth chief Datuk Fadillah Yusuf said that even though Sarawak cannot demand on the quantum for the oil royalty, he believed that Najib was willing to listen to the people’s needs for more funding for its infrastructure development.
“There is an urgent need for more funding for the improvement of both infrastructure development and closing the digital gap in Sarawak so that we can move in tandem with the rest of the country towards a high income economy.
“Without good infrastructure development such as roads, electricity and water supplies especially in the rural areas, the people in Sarawak would not be able to catch up with the rest of the country,” said Fadillah, who is also the deputy minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.