KUCHING: The state government must be serious in safeguarding Sarawak’s territorial integrity by rejecting the application and enforcement of the Territorial Sea Act 2012 in Sarawak, said Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How.
“It it is only by claiming the full rights to Sarawak’s continental shelf in accordance with the Federal Constitution that the state can maintain full control of the use and development of all resources belonging to Sarawak, including the full licensing rights to oil and gas exploration and development.
“Most importantly, we must not shoot ourselves in the foot by agreeing to the limitation of our territorial sea to 12 nautical miles,” he said.
Elaborating on his opinion, See pointed out that the Territorial Sea Act 2012 cannot impose the provisions of the Continental Shelf Act 1966 [Act 83] and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966 [Act 95] on Sarawak, because Sarawak has its various Orders In Council made in 1954, 1958, 1960 and 1962 adopted by the Sarawak Legislative Assembly and the Sarawak Land Code, which have legally delineated and determined Sarawak’s territorial boundary, and the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 with regards to oil mining on and in its Continental Shelf.
“With the revocation and or annulment of the Emergency Orders, the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No. 10 of 1969 ceases to have effect under Article 150(7) of the Federal Constitution and the amendments made by Ordinance No. 10 of 1969 ceased to have effect and the 2 Federal Acts (the Continental Shelf Act 1966 and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966, i.e. Act 83 and Act 95) ceased to apply outside ‘the States of Malaya’,” he explained.
According to See, the reference to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by the Territorial Sea Act 2012 to bind all the Malayan States and the territories of Sarawak and Sabah to justify their limitation of the 12-nautical miles territorial limit, is misleading and fallacious.
He said that for the Federation as a whole, the “Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1984” [Act 311] was legislated to claim “the continental shelf of Malaysia” and made provisions to regulate all activities in the EEZ and on the continental shelf and all matters connected therewith.
He pointed out that therefore it was a big mistake to say that the Federation had, through the Territorial Sea Act 2012, unilaterally reduced the territorial sea of Sarawak from 12 nautical miles to three miles (hence a reduction of nine nautical miles).
“In actual fact, it took away our rightful claim to the continental shelf and reduced it to three nautical miles from our shores. For an estimate of the norms, there is a reduction of 197 nautical miles!”
See believed that the state would be making a mistake if it is agreeable to limit its territorial sea to just 12-nautical miles from its shores.
“Other resources in and on the state’s continental shelf aside, there is very little oil and gas fields sited within the 12-nautical mile limit.
“Are we to give up all the rights to oil and gas mining to the federal, for those fields outside the 12-nautical mile limit? That would be a huge sell-out of our territorial rights,” he said.
See noted that there is no other way but to claim the state’s full territorial rights as specified under Article 1(3) of the Federal Constitution, that is, the territory immediately before Malaysia Day (September 16, 1963).
“That the rights to Sarawak’s territory is exclusively ours is also enshrined in Article 2 of the Federal Constitution. The Federation cannot enact any law altering or affecting our territorial boundary unless Sarawak first passes a law in our state legislative assembly to alter it.
“The Territorial Sea Act 2012 is therefore unconstitutional in as far as it affects the territorial boundaries of Sarawak and Sabah. It should be declared that its application is limited to only the “Territory of the States of Malaya” or various provisions in the Act including sections 3 and 4 must be amended to state that those provisions have no application to the States of Sarawak and Sabah.
“We can have regard to UNCLOS but let us legislate our own Territorial Sea Ordinance and the Exclusive Economic Zone Ordinance to regulate and maintain our rights to the licensing of petroleum mining on and in the continental shelf of Sarawak,” he said.