Tuesday, August 11

DUN record shows my figures on petroleum tax not misleading — Soon Koh

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Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh

Story updated on May 5 at 6.16pm

KUCHING: The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting on May 11 ought to be extended to one full week for the DUN to examine the proposed supplementary budget, as well as to pose questions to the State Finance Ministry on Budget 2019 now shown by the Petronas settlement to be totally out by billions of ringgit, says Parti Bersatu Sarawak (PSB) president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh.

Responding to Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali’s explanation about the settlement reached between the Sarawak government and Petronas, he noted that there was a need to look at the facts.

“Sharifah Hasidah alleges that my statement ‘the anticipated O&G (oil and gas) tax for two years (for 2019 and 2020) totalled RM 6.775 billion was settled for a vastly reduced sum of RM2 billion’ is being ‘completely untrue and misleading’.

“In the first place, the total sum of anticipated O&G tax for 2019 and 2020 were tabled in the DUN as part of the budget for the two years. The two sums which totalled RM6.775 billion are there in the DUN’s record – in black and white.

“Is Sharifah Hasidah challenging the truth of the DUN records? I do not think she would have the audacity to do so,” he said.

Soon Koh said he could only surmise that Sharifah Hasidah claimed his statement as ‘completely untrue and misleading’ because the settlement between Sarawak government and Petronas was only in respect of Year 2019 and not for both years – a fact that was only disclosed to him by her statement.

However, he pointed out that even if the RM2 billion was only the payment for 2019, the settlement was still far too little, as he quoted the Chief Minister’s Budget 2019 speech on the matter.

“On page 37 paragraph 44, the Chief Minister stated: “The 2019 State revenue estimate is made up of tax revenue, which is expected to be at RM5.268 billion, or 50 per cent of the total expected revenue in 2019, comprises the following: RM4.462 billion from sales tax, of which RM3.897 billion is from petroleum products;…”

“Is the Sarawak government now denying the truth of what the Chief Minister presented to the DUN for Budget 2019? Is Sharifah Hasidah saying that the Chief Minister misled the august House when he tabled the budget for approval?” questioned Soon Koh.

He stated that instead of RM3.897 billion, the state only received RM2 billion from Petronas after winning the court case.

“Sharifah Hasidah told the press that this RM2 billion did not include the State Sales Tax (SST) on petroleum products paid by other oil companies like Shell, Murphy Oil, Pertamina and others.

“I say that she is highly misleading because I can recall that all those other companies paid their SST and the amounts from them were minimal, in the tens of millions.

“I now call upon the Sarawak government to disclose in a transparent manner how much SST on petroleum products that Shell, Murphy Oil, Pertamina and others paid for Year 2019. When the facts are disclosed by the government to substantiate what Sharifah Hasidah said, I believe that the public could see that the bulk of the expected income of RM3.897 billion was due from Petronas,” he said.

Soon Koh believed that if that was the case, then the Sarawak government owed an explanation to the DUN and the people of Sarawak as to why Petronas was allowed to pay only RM2 billion, when it actually owed about RM3.8 billion.

He also believed that the state ought to enforce the full payment of SST for Year 2019, which should be about RM3.8 billion based on the Chief Minister’s budget speech.

“If the state sued Petronas for less than RM3.8 billion, then we are owed an explanation why the state did not pursue the full amount against Petronas – the full amount that the Chief Minister stated in his budget speech.

“Sharifah Hasidah also alludes to ‘Sarawak rights protected by the Federal Constitution, The Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Recommendations under Inter Governmental Committee Report 1962’.

“Sharifah Hasidah further stated ‘the GPS State Government remains firmly committed to defend the sovereign rights of Sarawak to the oil and gas resources of the State’.

“This then begs the question why the GPS government capitulated and gave up our State rights to challenge the validity of the Petroleum Development Act 1974? This question was expressly and specifically raised by me in my press statement which Sharifah Hasidah purported to reply to. Why did the GPS government and the Chief Minister not address this fundamental issue?

“More importantly, what deal was struck behind closed doors between the GPS government and Petronas for Sarawak to give up its petroleum rights in exchange for a meagre payment of RM2 billion, which Petronas was already obligated to pay under a court order? Sarawak received nothing in exchange for the waiver of our petroleum rights,” he said.

Soon Koh also reminded the GPS government not to tell the people that it was for some vague promise that Sarawak would have participation in some upstream or downstream business industries in future, adding: “it would be ridiculous and utterly foolish to sacrifice the State’s rights for some vague undefined promise of participation in future.”

“Did not GPS continuously shout that the PDA 1974 was invalid as far as Sarawak is concerned? Were there not cries of sovereignty over our petroleum rights which the PDA 1974 was supposed to have eroded illegally?

“Yet, in this so-called “settlement” with Petronas for which Petronas paid a fraction of what is rightly due to Sarawak, why did GPS find it necessary to sacrifice Sarawak rights to challenge the PDA 1974?”

Soon Koh observed that there was a deafening silence from GPS on Sarawak’s rights to challenge the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974 and the Territorial Seas Act (TSA) as well as rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963, and questioned whether it was because its MPs were in the Cabinet of the federal government.

“There has been a remarkable change since GPS joined hands with the Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led government and that is plain for all to see. I anticipate that GPS members will jump up and down to say there should be no politics during the Covid-19 crisis. I say that GPS cannot hide behind the skirt of Covid-19 when such critical issues are at stake.

“Where Sarawak rights are sacrificed for no reason at all, when those rights were never in question as the state pursued the debt owing by Petronas under a court order, the GPS government must explain to us why they have abrogated our rights.

“Those are our rights – the rights belonging to each and every Sarawakian. Those rights do not belong to GPS for them to give away as they wish,” stressed Soon Koh.