Cool Heads Needed For Oil Royalty Debate; New Bangsamoro Deal

OIL FOR MOST PRODUCING STATES IS OFTEN SEEN AS A BLESSING BUT ON THE FLIP SIDE IT CAN ALSO BE A BANE AS OWNERSHIP OFTEN GIVES RISE TO DISPUTE. ACEH IN INDONESIA HAD TO FIGHT A CIVIL WAR TO CLAIM OWNERSHIP

COMMENT: We can’t blame anyone from this side of the pond for being happy initially and then upset later.

When Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition promised in its election manifesto that oil royalty would be increased from 5 percent to 20 percent to all oil producing states; we took it in good faith, as we saw it as fair deal and long overdue.

Many saw PH as honouring their manifesto.

Then, Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir elaborated on the matter by saying the increase would be based on profit sharing.

That didn’t go down well here, and also in Sarawak, as the impression all along was it had to be based on gross production.

“The royalty is from profit. If you made RM100, RM20 will be the royalty”, he said.

The confusion over the royalty-profit debacle must be cleared as soon as possible.

On top of that Economic Affairs Minister, Azmin Ali said 20 percent was not possible because the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974, fixed royalty at 10 percent of net profit; amendments were therefore needed.

This was of course contradicted by some people, who argued section 4 of PDA 74 allowed cash payment payable can be agreed between the federal government and the state government.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister, Wan Azizah, there would be no u-turn of course, but there is no consensus at this juncture. Azmin even hinted that the 20 percent royalty would have a negative impact on Petronas.

No wonder people find it confusing and are even upset and wonder if the promise would ever be fulfilled by the PH government.

Oil for most producing states is often seen as a blessing but on the flip side it can also be a bane as ownership often gives rise to dispute.

Will it be 20 percent royalty of 20 percent of the profits?

Acheh in Indonesia had to fight a civil war to claim ownership and Scotland toyed with the idea of leaving the United Kingdom through referendum.

It does not look like the issue of oil royalty will go away anytime soon.

And resentment is building up as people are asking why give the oil producing states false hope?

Was there much thought given to the promise, as to claim what’s reasonable and fair would entail reviewing all the records on Petronas production work in each producing state, thàt would take time, wouldn’t it?

The feeling of being played out is prevalent here, especially when we see Malaya is better developed based on what’s commonly believed to be the revenues from our oil.

With first class infrastructure criss crossing the peninsular compared to our primitive roads and also many people here have yet to receive electricity and running water, deep sense of resentment is felt.

This cannot go on. It is our oil yet how well represented are we at the board level? And what’s the percentage of Petronas workforce are actually Sabahan?

Some of the non-oil producing states in Malaya have better oil-related facilities than us here. How is that?

Petronas we all know, is a closed shop, reporting directly to the Prime Minister; there must be better transparency in new Malaysia; it must be placed directly under Parliament for example, this would be a welcome move by all and sundry.

After everything is said and done, we have little choice but to work for win- win situation.

The ownership issues must be resolved and uneven development must be redressed in the true spirit and intent of MA63.

Time is of the essence here as everybody is paying attention to it; PH government cannot be seen to be dragging its feet, after all we voted for change.

Change we must.

Now, if the oil royalty issue is sorted out, and we do get more; since we don’t know how the previous 5 percent royalty was used, can the present state government at least start an oil or sovereign fund for Sabahans modelled after the successful one in Norway?

At least there is a tangible legacy for the people here after the oil is gone.

WITH THE NEW BANGSAMORO DEAL, IT IS EXPECTED ISLAMIC EXTREMISM ESPECIALLY AMONG THE YOUNG MUSLIMS WOULD DECREASE AS THEY HAVE A VOICE AND A CHANCE TO SUCCEED WITH INVESTMENTS COMING IN AND RECRUITING DISAFFECTED YOUNG MUSLIMS WILL BE HARDER

They should be happy and us too.

After a ding dong battle, President Duterte of the Philippines finally signed a landmark law aimed at giving expanded autonomy to Muslims in the south.

President Duterte has given the Bangsamoro a new deal which should be good for everyone.

The legislation should bring some measure of peace to a region so close to us if they sneeze, we catch cold and vice versa

The long delayed law came four years after the Manila government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in exchange for the right to self-rule instead of full independence.

The new legislation called Bangsamoro Organic Law mandates an expansion of autonomous region superseding the earlier autonomous zone of five provinces considered a failure for its corruption and poor governance.

The new region will have its own parliament and syariah courts for Muslims.

Besides being larger it is also expected to be better funded receiving allocation 5 percent of national revenues and it can also keep 75 percent of all taxes collected.

Damaged buildings beside a mosque in Marawi city in this photo taken after the siege by Islamist rebels ended.

With the new law, it is expected Islamic extremism especially among the young Muslims would decrease as they have a voice and a chance to succeed with investments coming in and recruiting disaffected young Muslims will be harder.

The Marawi city siege last year had a big influence in the signing of this legislation, if it had been successful the extremists would have a base to export and destabilise the region.

Because eastern Sabah is so close to the area, it is to our interest to see that peace and stability reigns there; otherwise we would have a harder time controlling our border security with the extremists next door.

The Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF. – Photo from the MNLF Facebook page

The passing of the law is not an answer to an immediate peace in the area of course, at least it is a start.

While we can be happy with the progress, the inter-ethnic rivalry in the area will determine whether the new Autonomy region will be a success or not.

For these people who have only known violence for four decades, they have to rise to the occassion.

It can be a tall order for some of them as old habits die hard.

With the law still needing to be approved in a regional referendum, and it is expected to go through; it is time for all parties to move on.

Those in eastern Sabah, they too can look to a better time in terms of better growth.