See you in court, Sarawak government tells Petronas

James Masing called on all Sarawakian lawmakers and the people of the state in general to make their stand and fight for the state’s rights over its resources. — Reuters pic
James Masing called on all Sarawakian lawmakers and the people of the state in general to make their stand and fight for the state’s rights over its resources. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — The Sarawak government is raring for a court battle with Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to finally resolve any dispute over the state’s rights on its oil and gas resources.

This comes after Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) filed a court application today to clarify its position as the “exclusive owner of petroleum resources as well as regulator” for the upstream industry throughout the country.

Sarawak Urban Development and Natural Resources Minister, Tan Sri James Masing, who is also a deputy chief minister, called on all Sarawakian lawmakers and the people of the state in general to make their stand and fight for the state’s rights over its resources.

“The filing means Malaysia will have to look at the ambiguity in laws regarding oil and gas ownership between Malaya and Sarawak...it is now or never for Sarawak to clear the issue once and for all,” the Parti Rakyat Sarawak president said in a statement.

Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, the Local Government and Housing Minister, said his party had anticipated Petronas’ move when Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya.

“That was why we were promoting the urgency to build a stronger Sarawak in our campaign during the 14th general election,” he said in a statement.

He said SUPP maintained that all natural resources, including those found in Sarawak’s Continental Shelf, belongs to the state as its rightful owner and not Petronas.

“SUPP promises to fight to the end for the return of our rights and the ownership of our oil and gas. As we were given the mandate to be part of the Sarawak Government in the last Sarawak election in 2016, we will not back down from our promises.

“We cannot allow a government linked corporation to claim its rights over our sovereignty in oil resources in order to siphon our wealth out to the Peninsula again,” said Dr Sim, urging all Sarawakians to give their full support to the state government.

Earlier today, Sarawak Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, who is in-charge of law, also said the state government would fight Petronas’ claims.

“The State government will do everything within its powers, in accordance with the rule of law, to defend our rights in this matter,” she said in a statement.

Petronas had filed the application in the Federal Court to seek a declaration on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) as the law applicable for the industry.

“Petronas believes the determination by the Federal Court would help provide clarity on its rights and position under the PDA.

“Petronas remains committed to support Sarawak’s aspiration to participate in the oil and gas industry in the state, for as long as it is within the framework of the PDA,” it said in a statement.

The Sarawak government has made it mandatory for all oil and gas industry players operating in the state to be licensed under its Oil Mining Ordinance and Gas Distribution Ordinance from July 1.

In March, the state launched Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros) as its oil and gas regulatory and supervisory authority apparently with the blessing of the previous Federal government.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg had said the PDA was not relevant in the state as it had not been endorsed by the state legislative assembly.

The Sarawak government has been actively pursuing the restoration of the state’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, including in the devolution of power from the Federal government.

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