The fight for Sarawak’s “black gold” has started

Vehicle getting refueled at a petrol station. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

Commentary

IT came as a shock yesterday when Petronas unashamedly claimed it has full ownership of the oil and gas resources in Sarawak.

The national oil giant did not directly name Sarawak. It simply blared that it owns all the petroleum resources in Malaysia, which by definition includes those in Sarawak as well.

An excerpt of their three-paragraph press statement: “Petronas maintains that it has exclusive ownership of the petroleum resources in Malaysia and is the sole regulator of the upstream sector in the country.”

What Petronas is trying to say is this: Sarawak is part of Malaysia, so Petronas has exclusive ownership of Sarawak’s oil and gas, too.


In the last paragraph, the national oil giant states, “Moving forward, Petronas will closely monitor the situation, including seeking views and guidance from the Government of Malaysia, being the sole shareholder of Petronas, in carrying out our duties.”

It is now crystal clear that the battle over the “black gold” in Sarawak is no longer one between Petronas and the Sarawak Government. It is between Sarawak and the Federal Government!

Unfortunately, Sarawak will have to tread into the battlefield alone. This is because Kelantan, being part of Peninsular Malaysia, is legally bound by the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA). Just about the only chance Sarawak and Sabah have in defending their petroleum resources depends on how the court interprets the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and other pre-Malaysia ordinances, such as the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 (OMO), in relation to the PDA.

But the thing with Sabah is that they are now politically tilted towards the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government, so it is doubtful whether they want or dare to confront Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on this matter.

The battle is expected to unfold soon, especially after Sarawak forced Petronas to show its hand by enforcing the Gas Distribution Ordinance 2016 (GDO) and OMO. Petronas is expected to retaliate through the High Court in Kuching.

By enforcing the GDO and OMO, it is obvious that the Sarawak government means business, but what is uncertain is whether the state is adamant in wanting full control over its oil and gas resources or whether it will settle for only a percentage of it.

All this while, Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali only mumbled about “the next course of action” but never clearly stated what the state really hopes to achieve. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and speculation.

Some locals believe that the state government is playing chess with Dr Mahathir with the ultimate aim of getting the federal government to accept Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) into its fold. But others deem these political manoeuvres as not only passive but cowardly. They perceive the GPS government under the leadership of Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg as being “too lame” and unsure of how to bring this battle to a close once and for all.

Well, whether these perceptions are right or wrong, only time will tell. With Dato Sri JC Fong serving as the state legal counsel, there is a high likelihood that the state government does have a strategy to make things happen for the good of Sarawak.

Whatever it is, it is times like this that all Sarawakians must stand behind the state government.

When the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem was around, we were all so proud to call ourselves Sarawakians. Adenan left behind a precious legacy when he woke the state up from its deep slumber to fight for the rights of Sarawak as a partner within the federation and for Sarawak’s right to higher royalty for its oil and gas — from the current five per cent to 20 per cent.

Now Abang Johari has the chance to prove that he is made of sterner stuff, too.

Sarawakians want to be counted, and they want to right all the wrongs that have been around for decades. Sarawakians want it not only for themselves but for the future generations. — DayakDaily