STAR chief suggests a way to test whether PDA enforceable on Sarawak

Lina Soo

KUCHING, Jan 19: State Reform Party (STAR) president Lina Soo is urging the state government to physically block Petronas oil rigs and motivate the federal government to take legal action against Sarawak.

She said to take the rigs back, the federal government would have to sue Sarawak based on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA), which will determine if PDA is enforceable upon Sarawak, where Petronas is operating commercially on Sarawak natives’ land.

Soo said this following the case where the Malaysia government is suing the Kelantan government for failing to uphold the land rights of its indigenous people, a move described to be unprecedented.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers have filed a civil suit at the High Court of Malaya in Kota Bharu on behalf of the federal government to, among others, seek recognition of the Orang Asli’s rights in Pos Simpor near Gua Musang.

“STAR is following this case with great interest as it is maybe a prelude to establishing a landmark decision in which the federal government seems to intrude into a land matter that is a state right, on the justification to protect the indigenous population who are the Orang Asli.

“This case may well show that a new legal precedent is in the offing to set federal authority on state land, which is an exclusive jurisdiction of the state,” Soo commented.

She, however, observed that the case appeared “to be deeply tainted with politics”.

“The fact appears to point out that the federal government, run by Pakatan Harapan is now trying to champion Orang Asli rights in state matters. It is a test of PAS government authority and is so deeply tainted by politics of the day.

“The federal government is constitutional duty bound to protect the indigenous population but such duty and responsibilities confine only within and subject to the laws of our country in pursuance of the Rule of Law as has been advocated by (Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) in the concept of the New Malaysia,” she said.

For Sarawak’s case, Soo said Sarawak is bound by its own Land Code, which cannot be amended or repealed, except through Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

“Precedent in the Kelantan case may well apply to only states of Malaya 1957,” she said.

Meanwhile, she pointed out that commercial agencies operating in Sarawak in agricultural and the oil and gas sectors were almost all Malayan-based private or public entities, which include Sime Darby, Felda and Petronas.

“Federal government may use this court action as an election gimmick to win Orang Asli votes in view of the by-election and also to win Dayak votes in PRN12 (12th Sarawak Election).

“But it is 60 years late, as their Constitution failed to safeguard the original Malayans’ rights.

“Furthermore, the federal government had rejected ICERD (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), which is recognition of Orang Asli Rights,” opined Soo. — DayakDaily