Will Sabah Re-Assert Regulatory Control to Protect Oil Resources?

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By DR JEFFREY KITINGAN
COMMENT: While Chief Minister Abang Johari should be lauded for re-asserting Sarawak’s statutory regulatory control over its oil and gas resources, Sarawakians ought to be wary and fully understand the implications of his announcement.

I agree with Abang Jo on the constitutional right of the Borneo States on natural resources including oil and gas as per State List in the 9th Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

“Land” is clearly a State matter and that the development of these resources by the Federation under item 8(j) of the Federal List is subject to Item 2(c) of the State List. And under Section 24 of the Sabah Land Ordinance (Cap. 68), all minerals, precious stones and mineral oils which includes petroleum and gas belongs to the Sabah government.

Article 1(3) of the Federal Constitution also clearly provides that the boundaries of the State shall be the territories existing immediately preceding Malaysia Day in 1963. And based on the extension of the boundary of North Borneo by the Queen’s Order in Council in 1954, the boundary of North Borneo was up to the continental shelf including the seabed and its subsoil which lies beneath the high seas.

JEFFREY KITINGAN

There has been no revision of the boundaries of Sabah and Sarawak other than the controversial cession of Labuan to be made a Federal Territory in 1984. Even the “handover” of Blocks L and M which were under Sabah to Brunei in 2009 is unconstitutional.

There is no doubt that the oil and gas resources that are pumped out every day by Petronas from Sabah and Sarawak belongs to Sabah and Sarawak respectively and its peoples.

To rub salt into the wound, these oil and gas revenues are misappropriated by Petronas and the Federal government to develop Malaya. Worst still, it has left Sabah and Sarawak languishing as the poorest States despite being the 3rd and 5th biggest contributors to the Malaysian economy and federal coffers.

They sorely lack even the most basic of amenities, lack of clean treated water, short of electricity and plenty of gravel roads in the villages and rural areas instead of good asphalt roads and super highways which are common throughout Malaya. To top it all, the Federal government has spent more than RM100 billion on the mass rapid transit (MRT) system in Kuala Lumpur and the Greater Klang Valley.

Petronas was unlawfully and unconstitutionally vested with the oil and gas resources by the Vesting Order signed by Tun Razak on 26 March 1975.

As Petronas is not the lawful owner of Sabah and Sarawak’s oil and gas resources, it should only be at the most a main contractor and not the owner of Sabah and Sarawak’s oil and gas resources.

Unfortunately, although Sarawak has now asserted its authority over regulatory control of its oil and gas resources, it did not address the issue of their ownership which is still unlawfully retained by Petronas.

But without invalidating PDA74 or declaring it unconstitutional, Sarawak cannot hope to restore its oil and gas ownership.

What does that imply on the Sarawak government?

However, it ought to be reminded that the regulatory powers were never taken by the Federal government. It was always there in the Sarawak laws except that they were never exercised perhaps due to the undue influence that Umno and the Federal Barisan Nasional government has over the Sarawak BN government.

Of course, by exercising its regulatory control, the Sarawak government can deny Petronas the right to exploit its oil and gas resources by refusing them the exploration licences and mining leases.

But the big question, will the Sarawak government do so to protect their oil and gas resources for the benefit of future Sarawakians?

Given that the PRU-14 is around the corner, which must be held latest by August 24 this year, the announcement despite re-asserting the right to regulatory control, it sounds more like political rhetoric to hoodwink Sarawakian voters.

Closer to home, what about Sabah?

Given the Sabah BN government’s past records of subservience to their Umno and Malayan political leaders, nothing much can be expected although Section 24(3) of the Sabah Land Ordinance gives the Sabah government full and unfettered powers to regulate oil and gas exploration and exploitation in Sabah.

Come PRU-14, Sabahans and Sarawakians need to assert that the time has come for them to decide their own fate and future and not be dependent on others to decide for them. They should vote and elect their lawmakers that are all out to restore their oil and gas resources not the BN governments who are happy just to receive 5% cash payment and giving away the other 95%.

• Dr Jeffrey Kitingan is president, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku cum Bingkor State Assemblyman