S’wak challenges court for granting Petronas judicial review without its presence

Oil platform. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Dec 20:The State Attorney General was told that “it was not necessary” for his legal team to attend the High Court hearing on Sarawak Vs Petronas case held on Dec 10, 2019.

A well-informed source said following the absence of Sarawak’s legal team, a decision was made by the High Court to grant leave for Petronas to apply for judicial review to declare certain Sections of the State Sales Ordinance as ultra vires the Federal Constitution and to quash the Notices of Assessment issued to Petronas to pay over RM1.3 billion in State Sales Tax computed up to June 30, 2019.

This led to the Sarawak government appealing against the decision made by the High Court on Dec 10, 2019.

De-facto Law Minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali confirmed that the insider’s revelation was true, as she had issued a statement stating that the State Attorney General had even written two letters to the Court, asking that Petronas’ application for leave be heard inter partes i.e. with both parties present.

“The High Court Judge decided to hear only Mr Alvin Chong who is Counsel for Petronas,” said Hasidah in a press statement.

On the Appeal, she said the Court of Appeal would hear the Sarawak Government and Comptroller of State Sales Tax on 6 January 2020 in Putrajaya.

“The State Government appealed against this High Court decision on various grounds, including, breach of rules of natural justice, the lack of jurisdiction of the High Court to allow Petronas to undertake judicial review and the failure to accord the right of hearing to the State Attorney General who is the ‘guardian of public interests’ where the exercise of constitutional rights and powers of the State are involved,” said Hasidah in a statement today.

She said the President of the Court of Appeal had directed that the State Government’s appeal be heard urgently, and fixed Monday 6 January, 2020 for hearing in Putrajaya.

The Comptroller of the State Sales Tax, Sarawak and the State Government have filed a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim at the High Court registry here on Nov 21.

The claim against Petronas was to recover the 5 per cent State Sales Tax on petroleum and petroleum products which had been imposed by Sarawak under the Sales Tax Ordinance 1998 which was made effective beginning of this year.

It had been confirmed that Petronas owed the Sarawak government about RM1.29 billion in sales tax on petroleum products for the first half of this year. Meanwhile, other oil companies operating in Sarawak such as Murphy Oil and Pertamina have paid their due. —DayakDaily