Quo vadis Sarawak?

Flag of Sarawak. (Matthew A. Lockhart [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Commentary

In view of the political twists and abrupt turns in the last 24 hours, Sarawak is now better poised to have greater autonomy not only in terms of oil and gas resources but also in politics.

The eleventh hour postponement of the Federal Court’s hearing of the Petronas vs Sarawak government case late yesterday shocked Sarawakians as it was absolutely unexpected.

The treatment of the Sarawak delegation that had braced themselves for the legal showdown in Putrajaya yesterday was uncalled for. They were notified of the postponement not through an official letter from the Federal Court but through a phone call.

As Sarawakians huffed and puffed over the way their home state has been treated, the reality is that the case has changed hands — the federal government has taken over the case from Petronas as per the Attorney-General’s instruction.

The hearing on June 21 is no longer between Petronas vs Sarawak government but between the federal government vs Sarawak government.

When contacted, Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said the manner her delegation was treated was typical of how the federal government had been treating Sarawak all these while.

“We were shocked and disappointed … and maybe a bit angry when we received the late phone call informing us of the case postponement. We felt we ought to be heard before any postponement is allowed. But as lawyers and as students of law, we respect the court’s decision,” she told DayakDaily.

Following this latest development, Sarawak now has at least two options: Firstly, the state could file an injunction with the High Court in Kuching against Petronas, or secondly, bring the case to the international court at The Hague, where the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) signatories — Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore, Malaya and Britain — could be summoned as the MA63 is actually an international agreement signed by the five proponents in 1963.

This whole matter may also be boosted with the pulling out of the state’s four ruling parties – Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) – from the Barisan Nasional (BN) today to form a state-based pact called Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the formation of GPS would ensure that Sarawak rights would be further strengthen and protected under the real spirit of MA63. For what is the Federal Constitution or the Petroleum Development Act 1974 if there was no MA63?

From this argument and perspective, Sarawak now has a better chance of taking full ownership of its oil and gas resources, and not the probable 20 per cent in oil royalty from the national oil giant. After all, Sarawak is the rightful owner of the ‘goose that lays the golden eggs’, and there is no way an alien entity can claim full rights over those things that have a rightful owner. This is so basic there is no need to bring the court into the picture. — DayakDaily