By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, July 15: The allegation that the Sarawak government is in negotiations with national oil and gas corporation Petronas over the payment of State Sales Tax on petroleum and petroleum products is false.
The clarification was made by Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali through a social media post.
She asserted the ongoing negotiations between the Sarawak government and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) was purely commercial and did not concern the State Sales Tax (SST) on petroleum and petroleum products.
Sharifah Hasidah also emphasised that the payment of the said tax is non-negotiable as it is Sarawak’s rights as stipulated and safeguarded by Sarawak’s constitution.
“Ongoing negotiations under (the) Joint Committee is not about Sales Tax.
“Petronas must pay the SST as assessed according to and under our State Sales Tax Ordinance. That’s non-negotiable as that is our constitutional right to impose SST.
“Therefore, the claims that we are negotiating on payment of SST is fallacious. Simply not true,” Sharifah Hasidah’s post read.
The assistant minister also disclosed that the Sarawak government is now now negotiating with Petronas to reclaim a regulatory role in oil mining; increase share of revenues from oil and gas produced in Sarawak; access greater investment opportunities in downstream activities by the Sarawak government and Petros; and provide more opportunities for Sarawakian companies in the oil and gas industry plus greater and more secured supply of gas for industrial and commercial purposes to boost the state’s domestic industries.
“Negotiations are purely commercial in nature,” Sharifah Hasidah emphasised.
She made these points in response to a statement by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who had resigned from the Sarawak Legislative Assembly’s Consultative Committee (DUN Consultative Committee) in protest over the Sarawak government’s negotiations which did not consult the Consultative Committee.
See had pointed out the DUN Consultative committee which was appointed on June 10, 2020 to better advise DUN on the Petronas issue has yet to meet.
“Until today, members of the negotiating team, including myself, have yet to meet them. Neither have we met with the working committee appointed by the state government, nor been invited to make representations to the working committee.
“Yet a joint committee said to consist of members of the Sarawak government, federal government and Petronas are already in the midst of negotiating the finer details of the terms and conditions for the settlement and agreement between Sarawak and Petronas,” See told a press conference at his service centre here Tuesday (July 14).
He added it was “untenable” for him to remain a member of the consultative committee and its negotiating team as its role had been ignored by the exercise of executive power.
“It would be an affront to my public office as a member of the state legislative assembly and the consultative committee,” said See as quoted by the Star.
In relation to oil and gas in Sarawak, apart from the DUN Consultative Committee, a second committee was set up on June 12 under Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
Awang Tengah has been tasked as the chief negotiator for the Sarawak government to negotiate with the federal government and Petronas on how best Sarawak could participate in the oil and gas industry.
“Tax is one thing but what about our participation in the oil and gas industry? That’s why the committee (under Awang Tengah) was set up so that we can participate in the oil and gas industry,” said Chief Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg when announcing the formation of the committee on June 12 at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) headquarters.
Besides Awang Tengah, other members of the negotiation team are Sharifah Hasidah, State Attorney-General Datu Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid, State Legal Counsel Datuk Seri JC Fong, Economic Planning Unit (EPU) director Dr Muhammad Abdullah Zaidel and Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros) chief executive officer Datuk Sauu Kakok.
“We have a working committee (under Awang Tengah) which has executive power to negotiate with Petronas and also the federal government,” said Abang Johari at the function. — DayakDaily