By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, May 9: In every federal system of government, there is a tendency for powers to gravitate towards the central administration, and the governing system in Malaysia is no exception.
The central or federal government will want to be strong and, in the process, seeks to transgress upon powers, which constitutionally belong to Sarawak, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
In this regards, he assured that the Sarawak government would not abdicate its responsibilities to defend the state’s constitutional rights and territory, including its boundaries.
“The state government and the people must, at all times, stay vigilant to prevent any erosion of our constitutional rights and safeguards.
“We, Sarawakians, must stand united and be bold in the defence of our constitutional rights and the special position of Sarawak within the Federation,” Abang Johari said in his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.
He pointed out that like all federal systems of government, the Constitution, as the supreme law, sets out the division or separation of legislative and executive powers, the sharing of incomes or revenues between the federal government and the government of the component states.
The federal and state governments are allowed to have autonomy within their respective spheres, as provided for by the Constitution.
Abang Johari reminded that the state government had prevented efforts to undermine its constitutional rights and safeguards.
In 1966, Parliament passed the Continental Shelf Act and the Petroleum Mining Act aimed at taking control of the continental shelf and the exploration of mining of oil and gas within the boundaries of Sarawak.
The state objected to the extension of these two Acts to Sarawak, resulting in those laws being applied only to Peninsular Malaysia.
“Our efforts were thwarted by the federal government using the Emergency powers to extend the laws to the state in 1969.
“However, since the Proclamation of Emergency had been annulled in December 2011, the laws made under emergency powers had ceased to have effect under Article 150(7) of the Federal Constitution.
“The state government proceeded to enforce the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 to regulate oil mining both onshore and offshore of Sarawak.”
He said the state government, through Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), was determined to have regulatory control of offshore mining and equity participation in existing oil and natural gas fields and future exploration and mining areas offshore.
The state imposed sales tax on the export of petroleum products to have a more equitable share of the revenues yielded from oil and natural gas produced in Sarawak.
Abang Johari said Parliament passed the Perbadanan Pembekalan Letrik Sarawak Act 1983 with the intention to take over Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco) despite the provision of the Borneo States (Legislative Powers) Order, 1963.
Unlike Sabah, Sarawak refused to relinquish its legislative authority and hand over Sesco to federal control.
The state government also objected to the application of the Gas Supply Act, 1993, on the ground that it would infringe the state’s legislative powers over the distribution of gas.
To pre-empt the application of the said Act to Sarawak, the State Legislature passed the Sarawak Gas Supply Services (Operating Company), Ordinance 1995. To further protect the state’s rights, the Distribution of Gas Ordinance was enacted in 2016.
He cited the federal government’s intention to extend Part III of the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (Incorporation) Act, 1973 to Sarawak, having extended it to Sabah in 1992.
This would have required all exporters, importers, traders, suppliers and graders of timber and timber products to be registered with MTIB. Sarawak objected to this extension and retained full authority over export and import of timber products.
Abang Johari said the Sarawak government also enacted its Fisheries Ordinance, 2003 to protect the interests of fishermen operating in riverine and other inland waters of Sarawak.
This follows the federal government’s decision to extend the then Fisheries Act, 1963 to Sarawak, which defined “estuarine waters” as waters extending from the mouth of the river to the uppermost point upstream penetrated by seawater at the highest tide in the year.
Abang Johari also cited the proposed extension of the Legal Profession Act, 1976 and the proposed merger of the High Court in Borneo with the High Court in Malaya, in which the state had opposed. — DayakDaily