“Settle disputes first before you sell Petronas stakes”, says Abdul Karim

Abdul Karim (right) speaking to reporters

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Dec 12: The federal government must hold talks with Sarawak and Sabah before selling stakes in energy giant Petronas, said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Abdul Karim said the existing disputes, particularly on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) and the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (TSA), would become more complicated if Petronas sold its assets without resolving them.

“You cannot just simply sell, because everyone knows Petronas’ main areas of extraction and mining are in the two states of Sarawak and Sabah. If they want to sell, it should only be decided after solving the disputes,” Karim said after receiving Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court robes from former Federal Court judge Tan Sri Sulong Matjeraie, today.

He explained that the PDA was enacted under an emergency law, without the consent of Sarawak and Sabah state governments and lawmakers.

“Therefore the validity of the PDA is now in question as the emergency was formally lifted in 2011. We are also having doubts on the legitimacy of the PDA which empowers Petronas rights over oil and resources found within the territorial waters of Sarawak and Sabah.”

While the court should decide on the legality, Abdul Karim stressed that details of the offer must be studied thoroughly.

He was responding to a Reuters report on Dec 10, quoting Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad considering the idea of federal government selling Petronas shares privately to Sarawak, Sabah, Terengganu and Kelantan where the company has most of its energy assets, to raise funds for the debt-laden government.

According to the report, Petronas is the world’s third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and it is one of the biggest sources of revenue for the federal government that has a debt pile of more than RM1 trillion ($239 billion).

Sarawak accounts for two thirds of Malaysia’s total gas production and it has one of the country’s most prolific oil and gas reserves. —DayakDaily