Pending rep explains circumstances surrounding PH’s promises on tax revenue, oil and gas royalties for Sarawak

Shankar Ram talking to the plaintiff Wee, and the latter's wife Datin Dona Drury-Wee.

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By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, July 5: Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong was called by the defence yesterday (July 4) to testify in the defamation suit by Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations president Dato Richard Wee against Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader Michael Kong.

Kong had allegedly uploaded a defamatory Facebook post on July 21, 2020 against Wee.

Yong who was the second witness for the defendant, was asked to testify about the promise made by the then Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government that 20 per cent oil royalty and 50 per cent tax collected in Sarawak be returned to the State.

During the examination-in-chief by the counsel for the defendant, Chong Chieng Jen, Chong asked Yong about the contention of the issue not being fulfilled by the PH federal government.

Yong said the issue arose in the new agreement executed by the three State opposition party leaders — Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen, the then Sarawak Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chairman Baru Bian, and the then Sarawak Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) chairman — and was handed over to Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, who was referred to as Chief Minister of Sarawak at that time, sometime in April 2018.

She said, in the new deal agreement, it was expressly stated that the 20 per cent oil royalty and 50 per cent tax collected in Sarawak are to be returned to Sarawak for the State government to shoulder the fiscal responsibilities of the federal government in education and health.

“Unfortunately, Abang Johari turned down the deal. He did not sign the agreement, and that was why this promise of 20 per cent oil royalty and 50 per cent tax collected in Sarawak could not be executed.”

When asked what Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) reason was for not agreeing with the agreement, she said to the best of her knowledge, after the PH government was formed, the Special Cabinet Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was formed, whereby the chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah were in direct negotiation with the then Prime Minister of Malaysia.

She said among the issues discussed were oil and gas revenue in Sabah and Sarawak.

As far as she could recall, she said, Abang Johari was happy with the discussions or negotiations carried out in the Special Cabinet Committee.

During the cross-examination, the plaintiff’s counsel Shankar Ram Asnani asked Yong: “At that time in April 2018 when the new deal was presented to the Chief Minister of Sarawak, you have no authorisation nor approval from the federal government or the federal cabinet standing at that point in time.

Yong: I agree.

When asked if she agreed that the oil and gas royalty and tax matters are matters for the federal government if they agree to pass through the Cabinet for approval, she said she disagreed.

She explained that the reason is that different federal governments have different approaches — the federal government before that being Barisan Nasional (BN).

She said the approach taken by the BN federal government might not be the same as the PH federal government.

She said when the new deal agreement was drafted and presented to the Chief Minister of Sarawak, it was with the consent or agreement reached between the PH coalition party on both the federal and State levels.

Shankar Ram: On 9.11.2017, Me Chong Chieng Jen had made this statement in Sarawak Hansard which is dated 9.11.2017, where he stated specifically, “Instead, Tuan Speaker, we have here a manifesto of Pakatan Harapan, that it is agreed, so long as we become the federal government, fifty per cent of oil tax revenue collected from Sarawak will go to the State. Will go to State’s coffer, you don’t have to beg. Fifty per cent of oil tax collected from Sarawak will go to the State coffers, and twenty per cent of oil and gas royalty will also go to the State coffers. You don’t have to beg. Yang Amat Berhormat, so long as we become the federal government. Even if the State government is Barisan Nasional. You don’t have to be a ‘katak’ (frog) to jump over to Pakatan Harapan. But if we become the Federal government, this is what we have promised. This is what we promise. Fifty per cent tax revenue collected in Sarawak and twenty per cent of oil royalty give to you, give to Sarawak. For you to decide, and on top of that, as if that’s not enough, education and…

Yong: Yes, I agree.

Shankar Ram then drew Yong’s attention to a press statement made by Chong after the Sarawak election on Dec 29, 2021.

Shankar Ram: Exhibit P13 states in the third paragraph, “Such sentiment was because the DAP and Pakatan Harapan, during the 22 months of federal government, did not manage to match the expectations of the people”. Correct?

Yong: Correct.

The relevant pages of the Hansard were then marked as an exhibit for the case.

The legal team for the defendant and Yong (third left) outside the courtroom.

The cross-examination on Yong could not be finished yesterday. Therefore, High Court Judge Alwi fixed the trial of the case to continue today (July 5), where Yong will continue to give her testimony.

Wee was represented by counsels Shakar Ram, Yu Ying Ying and Russel Lim, whereas Kong was represented by counsels Chong Siew Chiang, Chong, Sim Kiat Leng and Brenda Chong. — DayakDaily