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KUCHING, Nov 9: The Sarawak government wants to regain its constitutional rights from Putrajaya over natural oil and gas resources in the state, reclaim its territorial land and review its financial claims.
In a motion that was unanimously passed in the State Legislative Assembly today, the state government was given the mandate to form a high level task force to negotiate with the federal government to resolve all outstanding issues related to the state’s rights in Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“The state government desires that these important constitutional issues be resolved amicably without resorting to legal action,” said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who also requested the federal government to establish a corresponding task force to facilitate negotiations without jeopardizing the unity of the federation.
Uggah said exploration and mining of oil or petroleum in offshore areas of the state is the state’s rights, which was guaranteed under the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958, which was never repealed and is valid today.
“Sarawak is committed (to the Federation) and has made sacrifices in the national interests, by granting PETRONAS control and benefit from its valuable petroleum and natural resources in its continental shelf and also on land.
“PETRONAS has been able to grant rights or concessions for the exploration, development and production of oil and gas in the continental shelf to many companies … Sarawakian companies have yet to be involved in any development and production of oil and gas,” he said while tabling the motion on MA63.
Uggah, who is also Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, said the state-owned PETROS is now ready to spearhead the state’s active involvement in all aspects of the oil and gas industry.
He said PETRONAS has to comply with state laws, but he added the state government would not jeopardise PETRONAS’ business or economic interest in Sarawak or act against national interests.
Also, Uggah said the Territorial Sea Act 2012 is not valid as it is unconstitutional for the federal government to claim rights over the seabed and subsoil which are part of state land.
Briefly, the state’s territorial waters and boundaries were reduced to only three nautical miles from its coastline after the Proclamation of Energy in 1969.
The Continental Shelf Act 1966 and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966 were subsequently passed enabling the federal government to exercise jurisdiction over the continental shelf of Sarawak and to regulate and control the exploitation of petroleum in the continental shelf.
After the aforementioned acts were annulled, Petroleum Development Act 1974 was later passed. The ownership and rights over petroleum was vested in PETRONAS in return for 5 per cent royalty payment to Sarawak which was regarded as payment of compensation for taking over state property in the form of petroleum (and gas).
Pandungan assemblyman Wong King Wei urged the state government to set a time frame and a clear subject matter on MA63 matters.
Meanwhile, Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen questioned the state government’s sincerity in safeguarding the state’s rights. He said the motion today was the third motion on Sarawak’s rights, but Sarawak’s struggle for autonomy did not seem to be advancing.
“I am hearing the same argument today, even after the London MA63 trip,” said Chong, pointing out that the motion today was quoting the exact words of the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.
In 2014, the State Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution asking for 20 per cent oil royalty from Putrajaya. A year later, Sarawak lawmakers unanimously agreed to give the mandate to the state government to “take all measures and actions” to safeguard the state’s rights and interests by getting Putrajaya to fully abide by MA63.
Earlier this year, a team of lawyers was sent to London to search for any studies and references related to the state’s rights under the MA63. — Dayak Daily