Saturday, September 26

Sarawakians outraged state petroleum rights compromised — Aspirasi

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Lina Soo

KUCHING: Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) president Lina Soo believes that Sarawakians are outraged and shocked that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government had compromised the state’s petroleum rights in reaching an agreement with Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) over the five percent petroleum sales tax .

It was reported that Petronas agreed to pay the Sarawak government RM2 billion and both parties agreed not to pursue the dispute in court and that all previous agreements between the two parties made under the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (Act 144) are still valid and enforceable. Soo was shocked that the state government agreed to incorporate the agreement for Sarawak to validate Act 144 as part of the deal for Petronas to pay up the debt.

“The GPS government was not empowered to accede to the deal with Petronas; that all letters and agreements between the Sarawak government and Petronas under the Petroleum Development Act are legal and that Petronas was recognised as the national oil company that has full power over Sarawak’s oil and gas resources.

“For such an important decision that affects the inheritance of our natural resources for our future generations, this matter must be brought before Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN),” she said in a statement yesterday.

She reiterated that the status of Petroleum Development Act 1974 (Act 144) must be decided by the court and cannot be decided by an obscure backroom deal between GPS and Petronas.

Soo said the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s defence of the state’s interest had turned upside down.

Quoting his statement published in The Borneo Post on March 8, 2018, she said that Abang Johari declared that the Petroleum Development Act was ultra vires the constitution under Article 4 of the Federal Constitution.

“Abang Johari had also stressed that before Malaysia Day, Sarawak already owned its petroleum resources and this right cannot be compromised without the approval of Sarawak to be expressed by a law passed by our DUN,” she added.

Soo also cited am article from Malaysiakini news portal dated Sept 24, 2018; where Alex Ling, a Sarawakian who holds a Masters’ law degree in constitutional and international law from Cambridge University contended that the Act 144 was ‘void, illegal and unenforceable against Sarawak’ as the surrender of the state’s petroleum rights had never been approved by the state DUN.

“Malaya has no treaty rights to take our petroleum resources under international law, and as Sarawak petroleum was not a subject of negotiation in MA63, Petroleum Development Act 144 is a breach of this right,” she said.

Soo reminded that the legal issue on the 5 percent sales tax had been decided by the High Court in Sarawak’s favour on a constitutional point of law; however she said that the GPS government became a ‘Santa Claus’ to affirm the Act 144.

She added that there was absolutely no justification at all for Petronas to attach any conditions to settle the debt, and Sarawak had no reason at all to entertain any additional demand by Petronas to comply with the court order.

“The constitutional issue over ownership and economic rights of Sarawak petroleum can only be settled in court as a last resort when all else fails, and the Sarawak government must not betray the trust of the people in protecting our inheritance.

“If GPS sells the Sarawak people down the river over our oil and gas, GPS shall pay a heavy price for it in PRN 12 (12th State Election),” she said.

“Petronas must pay up the debt in full, immediately and unconditionally; Petronas has no difficulty in paying the federal government 38 percent petroleum tax (PITA). Why Sarawak must give discount even on 5 percent?