Chong: Meeting of legal minds a political stunt

Chong speaking to reporters after officiating at a Road Transport Department (JPJ) function at Kuching Sentral here this afternoon.

KUCHING, June 8: Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen describes the Sarawak government’s move to gather some 50 local lawyers yesterday to help it fight Petronas’ oil lawsuit as just “a political stunt”.

He believed the idea was to make the government looked like a hero trying to defend the rights of the state and its people in order to make up for what it had lost in the May 9 general election (GE14).

Chong, who told reporters this after officiating at a function here this afternoon, said he had this suspicion because the national oil giant filed the application in the Federal Court on June 4, which is after Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg visited Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on May 31.

“So, basically I think the state government is not serious about defending the case. I don’t know what transpired at the meeting between Abang Johari and Tun (Dr) Mahathir. I just find it too (much of a) coincidence that shortly after his meeting with Tun, this case was filed,” said Chong.

He added that Petronas surely must have had received a directive or permission from Tun Dr Mahathir to file the application to seek a declaration on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) to claim exclusive rights over Sarawak’s oil and gas resources.

“But it was filed so shortly after the meeting with Abang Johari. I urge the state government to be serious about defending this case and not just turning this into a political stunt.”

Asked if he suspected there was a political conspiracy between Abang Johari and Tun Dr Mahathir, he denied it, saying he only said there was just too much of a coincidence.

“They met, and both of them seemed happy. Abang Johari also looked happy. Then suddenly this action (Petronas court application) came up.”

On the lawyers’ meeting with Abang Johari yesterday, Chong said the meeting was fruitless because the state government did not provide the course papers of the case to the lawyers for them to give meaningful inputs.

“So what happened during yesterday’s meeting wasn’t a discussion. It was just a political stunt.

“Petronas has started an action on two things: determination on the PDA and the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 (OMO) … if they have legal force.

“There must be affidavits in support of this application. That is very common and what court cases are all about. So the lawyers should have at least been given a copy of those papers.

“But because there were none, all those present did not know the grounds presented by Petronas to support their application. Without knowing the grounds, how are we going to give our opinion?” Chong asked. — DayakDaily