Sarawakians are watching

E11 Platform Complex, Baronia oilfield in Miri. — file pic

Commentary

WHEN the going gets tough, the tough gets going, or so the saying goes. Ever since news got around on June 4 that Petronas had gone to the Federal Court to get a declaration that they are the rightful owner of the oil and gas resources in Sarawak, Sarawakians hit the roof and were not shy with giving the national oil giant a piece of their mind.

Having noted what DayakDaily readers opined and what Sarawakian politicians have uttered about the matter, it can be safely assumed that Sarawakians are angry. And because of this, the people of Sarawak are searching for villains whom they could hold accountable. On the flip side, they are also on the lookout for heroes who could comfort them and lead the way to regain Sarawak’s eroded rights.

Sarawak got short-changed for so many years because of our leaders. It is a fact, and shall remain so, that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the prime minister for 22 years, didn’t lift the State of Emergency, on which the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) hinged on. His successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was silent on the matter, too. The names of all the Members of Parliament (MPs) who had allowed the Bill to be passed and continued to keep their silence should be recorded, remembered and be held accountable by Sarawakians.

In contrast, for whatever reasons the people of Sarawak detest former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, there remains a good reason why Sarawakians should be thankful to him. Najib lifted the Emergency Ordinance, and this allowed Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63) to see the light of the day in November 2011. Hence, if those politicians who had kept silent need to be prosecuted, then those who stood up for the state should be thanked.

The federal government under the Barisan Nasional (BN) kept silent on the matter for so long probably because those who could flex their muscles in Parliament either didn’t do their job, got silenced or opted to play dumb. For failing to deliver in some crucial aspects of governance all these years, it is no wonder that the once all mighty BN was swept away by the `Malaysian Tsunami” during the May 9 general election.

Interestingly, the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led federal government has not uttered a single word with regards to Petronas’ oil claim thus far. Yes, Sarawak PH lawmakers have made suggestions on what should be done, especially from a legal viewpoint, but as laymen, we cannot help but wonder whether they have sought opinions or assistance from their party leader (Tun Dr Mahathir) to resolve Sarawak’s plight.

Does the federal government support a repeal of the PDA, and if so, when will PH lawmakers move such a motion? PH is the federal government now, so surely Sarawak PH representatives could help their own state?

Historical records of the Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order 1954 by the Queen in Council, which stipulates that `Sarawak’s boundaries include the seabed and subsoil beneath its territorial waters and that Sarawak’s rights to territorial water and oil and gas resources was already developed even before formation of Malaysia’ give credence to Sarawak’s claim.

The MA63 was inked in London and registered by the United Kingdom in the United Nations. This means MA63 is an international agreement and beyond the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Parliament. Any dispute naturally will have to be resolved through international arbitration, and not necessarily by the High Court of Malaysia.

On hindsight, Petronas filing the court application in the Federal Court offers Sarawak an opportunity to present its case to the international community to evaluate.

Once the wheel of international arbitration is set in motion, there will be no stopping it. Once the veil is lifted, all amendments and erosion of rights, legal or otherwise, will be laid bare for all to see. Should the arbiter decides that Sarawak is capable of standing on its own, or in the event that there are sufficient evidence to prove that the Federation of Malaya have failed in its duty to adhere to the original stipulated conditions for the formation of Malaysia, the decision could unleash a torrent of consequences that none of us could ever imagine.

While there is no doubt that Sarawak can put up a good fight, the frustrations felt by Sarawakians are not solely on this case alone. They are also dismayed by the way state leaders chose not to keep the rakyat abreast of things.

In times of uncertainty such as this, the people of Sarawak would love to receive some kind of assurances or affirmations from their leaders. Several lawyers from Sarawak PH have dished out good suggestions, and their initiative should be acknowledged by the state government.

As it is, public perception of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s lacklustre reactions to these constructive suggestions is that the state government has no clue as to what needs to be done and yet refuses to adopt the steps suggested by the PH lawmakers. Whether the people’s perception is accurate or not is one thing, but the reality is that public perception is very important in matters such as this. Hence, it is perhaps time for the state government to wake up and touch base with the public.

Furthermore, one cannot help but notice that leaders of BN-friendly United People’s Party (UPP) and victorious independent candidates who have joined PH are playing dumb. As a matter of fact, some senior BN politicians too have yet to breathe a word or two on the MA63 and Petronas’ suit. Previously, this same group of politicians were forever eager to remind the public of their existence. Even when they were overseas, they never failed to disseminate photographs and news of their visits to the mass media to ensure their faces get plastered on the local dailies.

The strategy of this group of politicians to shy away now so as to avoid stepping on people’s toes may seem like a grand survival master plan, but leaders like them are at best spineless. They should stop assuming that Sarawakians are naïve and forgetful. The public are forever observant and will deal with them when the time comes. — DayakDaily