NGOs condemn Sarawak gov’t-Petronas “new deal”

File photo for illustration purposes

KUCHING, May 9: A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are strongly opposed to the “new deal” struck by the GPS government with Petronas, which they viewed had signed away Sarawak’s most important oil and gas resources.

The group including Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations (SAPA), Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) and Solidarity Anak Sarawak (SAS), expressed shock and disappointment in a joint statement, claiming that it has dashed hopes to regain control of Sarawak’s oil and gas resources as the state’s claim was based on strong legal grounds which would have augured well for Sarawak’s development.

“According to the statement, all agreements between the Sarawak government and Petronas under the PDA 1974 are still valid and in force. Petronas is still recognised as the national oil company that acquires full authority in regulating the development of the oil and gas in the country,” they said.

The group added that the joint statement by the Sarawak government and Petronas yesterday (May 8), had confirmed their worst fears that the Sarawak government had surrendered all os the state’s petroleum ownership rights to Petronas and the federal government despite its previous strenuous defence of Sarawak’s ownership rights.

“This is the most shameful and arbitrary repeat of what happened in 1974 when the Petroleum Development Act (PDA74) was illegally and unconstitutionally passed to seize Sarawak and Sabah petroleum resources and then in 1976 GPS’ predecessor chief minister Abdul Rahman Yakub had illegally signed the Petroleum Agreement with Malaya to surrender one of our most important heritage assets.

“This new deal with Petronas was on its face designed to absolve the past illegal actions of GPS’ predecessors and compounds the crime against the Sarawak people especially when Sarawak had the strongest upper hand in legally reinstating its petroleum ownership right,” they said, adding that the Court had only recently declared that Sarawak had the right to impose the State Sales Tax (SST) on Petronas.

Furthermore, they could not understand why Sarawak should gradually decrease the 5 per cent SST rate imposed on the oil firm when all other oil companies operating in Sarawak territory had paid the tax in full without question.

“The right to impose the SST rests on Sarawak’s sovereign control of its territories and resources,” they pressed.

In the NGOs’ opinion, Sarawak petroleum ownership and associated rights were never an item discussed in the making of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) nor was it any part of the Federal Constitution and was, therefore, a matter excluded from any federal dealing as it was a right clearly reserved for Sarawak and remain a resource owned by Sarawak.

“This point is reinforced by the fact that this same issue led to Brunei refusing to sign MA63 when Malaya demanded 100% control of its petroleum ownership and exploitation. Thus it was not raised in Sabah and Sarawak’s case and not part of the MA63 deal,” they pointed out.

This “new deal”, they emphasised, breached a fundamental declared objective for the “Malaysia formation” which was to develop the Borneo territories and not the Peninsula states.

“Since 1976 Sarawak petroleum wealth has been expropriated to develop and enrich Peninsula leaving the majority of Sarawakians in poverty.

“This is a wrongful act by the state government which has actually diminished Sarawak’s bargaining power and made it more dependent on the federal government,” they said.

They opined that it was time to call for a referendum to let all Sarawakians decide on their own future by addressing the issue of self-determination as to whether Sarawak should remain or exit the Federation.

The joint statement was also signed by Sabah Sarawak Rights Australia New Zealand (SSRANZ), Dayak Rights Action Force (DRAF), Son of Sarawak (SOS), YATT Society Sarawak and Movement for Change Sarawak (MOCs). —DayakDaily