KUCHING: An opposition leader today dismissed as wishful thinking the announcement by Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg that the state would assume full regulatory authority over the upstream and downstream aspects of the oil and gas industry there by July.
Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How said Abang Johari appeared to be “overly excited and exceedingly optimistic on the indefinite and ambiguous assurance” given by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The Batu Lintang assemblyman added that Abang Johari had “gone overboard” with the announcement which might not materialise.
“With his eyes trained on the coming general election, the assurance by the prime minister was vague and clearly uttered to placate the Sarawakians and Sabahans,” said See.
He said Putrajaya’s insincerity was clear as Najib had yet to get back to Sarawak on the reference made to his office by late Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem to repeal or amend the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (TSA) in 2016.
There had also been no progress on the devolution of powers in any subject matter to Sarawak since Adenan’s death, he noted in a statement.
See said for Sarawak to assert its right to issue permits and licences for mines, mining leases and certificates, as provided in the Federal Constitution, the federal government must first repeal the TSA, the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA), or make amendments to their provisions. Also, the Tripartite Agreement signed between the federal government, the Sarawak government and Petronas must be rescinded.
Only then can Sarawak take charge of prospecting, mining and developing its petroleum resources, he said.
“How can we assert those rights which are constrained and/or are no longer in our hands?”
See said the PDA vested in Petronas the entire ownership of and exclusive rights, powers, liberties and privileges to the exploration and exploitation of the country’s petroleum resources, and to control downstream activities and development related to petroleum and its products.
That act, he said, had completely taken away all the rights, powers and privileges of Sarawak over the petroleum resources deposited and found within its territorial boundaries.
In accordance with the PDA, he said, Sarawak signed the Tripartite Agreement with the federal government and Petronas purportedly “to irrevocably grant in perpetuity and convey to and vest in Petronas” ownership in and the exclusive rights, powers, liberties and privileges of exploring, exploiting and obtaining petroleum whether lying onshore or offshore of Sarawak.
Although the PDA and Tripartite Agreement were under the regime of the Emergency Orders, which have been revoked, the Act of Parliament and Agreement still stands and is effective until repealed or amended.
“Further, the TSA, which was unconstitutionally enacted, has limited our territorial jurisdiction to merely three nautical miles off our shores, hence constraining our control to the exploring, exploiting and obtaining of all our resources found in our territorial sea, which should have been extended up to 300 nautical miles off Sarawak’s shores.
“The chief minister must first obtain the assurance and undertaking of the prime minister to repeal the TSA 2012 and the PDA 1974, and to rescind the Tripartite Agreement before he can make the announcement that we are now able to exercise our jurisdiction under our Oil Mining Ordinance, with regards the licensing of oil and gas exploration, exploitation and development.”
See said Petronas had been granted the rights and power to issue licences in the prospecting, exploiting, obtaining, development and supply of petroleum resources in the country.
“Unless all these laws and legal provisions are repealed or amended to devolve or vest the power back to Sarawak, we are in effect powerless.”