Why Putrajaya can’t own state oil and gas

Rights-activist-says-Sarawak-should-not-relent-if-the-federal-government-oil-rig-1
Rights activist says Sarawak should not relent if the federal government claims its role as protector of the land gives it the right of ownership over the state’s oil and gas. (Reuters pic)

KOTA KINABALU: State rights activist Zulfaqar Sa’adi has voiced concern over the possibility that the federal government will eventually claim to be the rightful owner of oil and gas resources belonging to Sarawak.

Speaking to FMT, he said he feared that Putrajaya would interpret its right of sovereignty over the states of the federation as meaning that it could claim property rights as well.

That would be erroneous, he said, citing Section 75 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Article 12 (1) of the Sarawak constitution.

He said the documents explicitly showed that lands, including those covered by water, as well as everything attached to them, were state property.

“The sovereignty rights of the federal government are given so that it can fulfil its obligation to protect and conserve the country,” he said.

“However, these rights do not include rights over land or property. That’s why the state can collect revenue from land, as specified in the Federal Constitution.

“Whatever it is, the Sarawak government has no interest in taking over the sovereignty rights of the federal government. It is interested only in Sarawak’s land, including the territorial waters.”

He said Sarawak’s constitutional powers over its assets included the power of the state government to make contracts with oil and gas companies for the extraction of resources from beneath its territorial waters.

Thus, he added, the state government should not relent if the federal government were to claim that its role as protector of the land gave it the right of ownership over the state’s oil and gas.

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