All oil and resources within Sarawak’s continental shelf belongs to Sarawak

A file photo of Semarang Offshore Complex oil and gas platform, Labuan. — photo credit: Sangu Nelus

KUCHING, Oct 18: All the oil and oil fields within Sarawak’s continental shelf belongs to Sarawak and not the federal government.

Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar emphasised today that Sarawak has right over the oil and oil fields because the acquisition of Sarawak’s continental shelf was unconstitutional and against the 1958 United Nations Convention.

“If the contention of the federal government was that Sarawak’s continental has been constitutionally and legitimately acquired under Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974, even though it transgressed Article 2 of the Federal Constitution, then the federal government must pay compensation to the state government at market price,” he said in a media statement today.

“It must be the entire length and breadth of the continental shelf together with the petroleum beneath the continental shelf,” he added.

The oil and oil fields belong to Sarawak, he reiterated, because the oil is found beneath the state’s continental shelf, sea-bed and subsoil, all of which are within the territory of Sarawak.

He pointed out that history, the International Law, the Federal Constitution and State Laws are on Sarawak side.

“On June 24, 1954, Her Majesty the Queen of England made an Order in Council at Buckingham Palace, London. The Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order in Council was gazetted on 30th June 1954. The Order states:

“2. The boundaries of the Colony of Sarawak are hereby extended to include the area of the continental shelf being the seabed and its subsoil which lies beneath the high seas contiguous to the territorial waters of Sarawak.”

“3. Nothing in this order shall be deemed to affect the character as high seas of any waters above the said area of the continental shelf.”

Asfia emphasised that this is the territory of Sarawak with its landmass and continental shelf, sea-bed and subsoil at the birth of Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

He went on citing Part II Section 4(3) of the Malaysia Act, 1963, which read: “The territories of each of the States mentioned in Clause (2) are the territories comprised therein immediately before Malaysia Day.”

Pointing out that the PDA, the Continental Shelf Act 1966 and other related Acts of Parliament had the effect of acquiring Sarawak’s Continental Shelf, sea-bed and subsoil, he however argued that these Acts and related laws flagrantly violate Article 2 of the Federal Constitution.

He cited Article 2(b) of the Federal Constitution which read: “Parliament may by law -(b) alter the boundaries of any State, but a law altering the boundaries of a State shall not be passed without the consent of that State (expressed by a law made by the Legislature of that State) and of the Conference of Rulers.”

Asfia also reminded that neither the Dewan Undangan Negeri of Sarawak has ever passed a law expressing consent to the alteration of its boundaries, nor to our knowledge the Conference of Rulers has consented to the alteration of Sarawak’s boundaries.

“If the boundaries of Sarawak have shrunken, confined only to its land mass depriving the state of its original boundaries at the material time Malaysia was formed, the burden of proof is on the federal government and Petronas that Article 2(3) in the Federal Constitution had been fully complied with,” he said.

He added that this was consistent with the article in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament in 1960 (HC Deb 10 May 1960 vol 623 cc41-2) on continental shelf which states:

“The jurisdiction of the Sarawak Government over the continental shelf for the purposes of exploring and exploiting its mineral resources derives from the Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order-in-Council, 1954, which extends the boundaries of Sarawak to include the adjacent continental shelf, and not from the Oil Mining Ordinance, 1958, which merely confers powers on the Government to enable it to regulate exploration and exploitation of certain mineral resources of the shelf.

“The right to such jurisdiction is now embodied in the 1958 United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf. The Convention defines the shelf as extending to the depth of 200 metres or beyond that limit where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of exploitation, and contains provision as to the boundaries between the respective shelves of neighbouring countries. There is no intention of exercising jurisdiction beyond the boundaries as defined in the Convention or except for the purposes allowed by the Convention.”

Citing Article 83(1) of the Federal Constitution, Asfia highlighted: “If the Federal Government is satisfied that land in a State, not being alienated land, is needed for federal purposes, that Government may, after consultation with the State Government, require the State Government, and it shall then be the duty of that Government, to cause to be made to the Federation, or to such public authority as the Federal Government may direct, such grant of the land as the Federal Government may direct: Provided that the Federal Government shall not require the grant of any land reserved for a State purpose unless it is satisfied that it is in the national interest so to do.”

Citing Article 83(2) of the Federal Constitution, Asfia said: “Where in accordance with Clause (1) the Federal Government requires the State Government to cause to be made a grant of land in perpetuity, the grant shall be made without restrictions as to the use of the land but shall be subject to the payment annually of an appropriate quit rent and the Federation shall pay to the State a premium equal to the market value for the grant; and where the Federal Government so requires the State Government to cause to be granted any other interest in land, the Federation shall pay to the State the just annual rent therefore and such premium, if any is required by the State Government, as may be just.” — DayakDaily