Jeffrey ‘alarmed’ at reports Russia studying Petronas assets

Jeffrey-KitinganKOTA KINABALU: Bingkor Assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan has expressed extreme concern on speculation arising from a website and the Tass news agency, both reporting that Moscow was considering buying out Petronas assets.

It was not immediately clear whether these assets were also overseas but Tass referred to Petronas as one of the largest energy corporations in Southeast Asia, employing 40,000 people and authorized to develop and produce oil and natural gas throughout Malaysia, noted Jeffrey, who is also Star Sabah Chief, in a telephone interview.

“If these purported deals are about Petroleum Sharing Contracts (PSCs) in Borneo, it may be considered,” he conceded in elaborating on a statement that he had issued earlier in the day. “However, it seems that the Russian state-owned company Zarubezhneft was more interested in certain assets, purportedly including oil and gas fields complete with production platforms and rigs etc.”

“That raises the question, as being speculated in the social media, whether Petronas intends to conduct a fire sale of assets.”

He expects the Sabah and Sarawak Governments to study any negative developments in the oil and gas industry in Borneo in the wake of the Asean-Russia summit and statements attributed to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Tass, the Russian news agency, and reports in other media in that country on Petronas.

Jeffrey’s main concern is that the Petronas assets that the Russians are reportedly eyeing may be in Sabah and Sarawak. “If so, that will be the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back, coming on top of the various national crises and scandals going on in the peninsula,” he warned. “Putrajaya should keep the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) in mind.”

“We didn’t enter into Federation with the peninsula so that the Federal Government could sell off parts of Sabah and Sarawak to foreigners.”

Let me assure all Sabahans that we will not sit idly and watch it happen, said Jeffrey. “We will take all legal steps to voice our loudest and most vociferous opposition to the Federal Government, and take legal action through all the relevant international bodies, including the United Nations and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”

The lawmaker, while not ruling out that the national oil corporation may be facing a cash crunch, ventured that there may be various “legal implications” if Petronas had to eventually sell off parts of the oil and gas industry in Sabah and Sarawak. “Selling off oil rigs in the waters of the two Borneo nations would mean infringing on their territorial rights.”

“The Federal Government and/or Petronas have absolutely no right to do this.”

Novak was quoted as saying in Tass on Friday, on the sidelines of an Asean-Russia summit in Sochi, that Zarubezhneft was “exploring the possibility of acquiring the assets of Petronas”. “Zarubezhneft shows interest in first studying the assets of Petronas. The parties are holding consultations about it,” Jeffrey quoted Novak as saying.

Novak confirmed that Zarubezhneft is in talks on entering projects in Malaysia, pointed out the Sabah Opposition strongman. “Novak further said that ‘as for Zarubezhneft they are studying opportunities to enter projects in Malaysia. Zarubezhneft has a lot of experience to enhance the effectiveness of existing fields, and offers its services and participation’.”