KUCHING: Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) yesterday dropped a bombshell in its decision to seek legal redress to its oil and gas rights in Sarawak.
The suit comes two months after the Sarawak government announced that a new regulatory framework over the oil and gas industry would come into force effective July 1.
When the regulatory framework, which is also applicable to Petronas, comes into force, actions and penalties will be taken against any person or company including its contractors, sub-contractors and vendors operating in Sarawak without licences issued by Sarawak government.
The Sarawak government has confirmed that it has been made a party in the suit brought by the national oil corporation and the application for leave made under Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution would be heard in Putrajaya on June 12.
Assistant Minister of Law, Federal-State Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, who confirmed this, said the Sarawak Attorney General’s Chambers had been served with a notice from the Federal Court Registry yesterday.
“The state Attorney General’s Chambers has been served with a notice from the Federal Court Registry on June 4…that the Sarawak government is being made a party in a suit brought by Petronas in the case of Petroliam Nasional Berhad vs Kerajaan Sarawak.
“At the moment, Sarawak has yet to receive the motion filed by Petronas related to the application. The Sarawak government will do everything within its powers, in accordance with the rule of law, to defend our rights in this matter,” she said in a statement received here yesterday.
In an immediate response, political analyst Prof James Chin told The Borneo Post that the court ruling would be “good for everyone as it could provide a guide on the legal arguments on the MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963)”.
Chin who is the director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia said stakes would be high in the Petronas vs Sarawak Government suit.
“Stakes are high. If Sarawak wins, it means Petronas must pay back all previous revenue from not only Sarawak but Sabah as well. If Petronas wins, people in Sarawak and Sabah will be very upset as it goes against PH promises in its election manifesto,” Chin cautioned.
Chin, however, asked who authorised the suit since Petronas is only answerable to the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Did Dr Mahathir know about the suit?” he asked.
He added that there is actually no need for court case if the new PH government just simply recognise Sarawak and Sabah rights under MA63.
He said the court decision would indicate partly if parliament is supreme or MA63 agreement is supreme.
“This legal move is just the initial stage. It will lead to other areas,” Chin said.
Petronas said it had filed an application before the Federal Court seeking for a declaration on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA 1974), being the law applicable for the petroleum industry in Malaysia.
It is seeking to clarify that under the law, it is the exclusive owner of the petroleum
resources as well as the regulator of the upstream industry throughout Malaysia, including in Sarawak.
“Petronas believes that the determination by the Federal Court would help provide clarity on its rights and position under the PDA.
“Petronas remains committed to supporting Sarawak’s aspiration to participate in the oil and gas industry in Sarawak, as long as it is within the framework of the PDA,” Petronas said.
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