Oil ownership case may ‘break’ Malaysia, STAR warns

National oil firm Petronas is seeking exclusive ownership of Malaysia’s petroleum resources and a court declaration making it the regulator of the upstream industry for the whole country. (Reuters pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan today warned that any court ruling favouring Petronas in the matter of petroleum resources ownership could signal “the end” of Malaysia.

“If the federal government insists on this, we will go back to the basis of the formation of Malaysia.

“What do they want to do? Break up Malaysia? This is a big case, and I am surprised the state government is not saying anything about it,” he told reporters after attending the annual Double Six memorial day here.

Jeffrey, who is Keningau MP and Tambunan assemblyman, said he had always viewed the Petroleum Development Act (PDA), on which Petronas is basing its claim to oil rights in the country, as unconstitutional.

He said natural resources had always been a state matter, and was even specified as such in the Federal Constitution under the distribution of legislative powers between the state and federal governments.

He added that the recent proposal to privatise Petronas was “disturbing”, as it meant the people would not longer have any locus standi on the resources as they would belong to the shareholders.

“That is a very silly proposal. Now, Petronas is going to court to declare that our resources belong to Petronas, exclusively.

“Funnily, they use the PDA when they should have to go back to the constitutions, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Inter-Governmental Committee Report,” he said.

Jeffrey said if the state government did not act on the matter, the people must do something to protect their interests.

This was why Gabungan Sabah, a political alliance of four opposition parties, had prepared a team of local lawyers to intervene in the case, he added.

“The people of Sabah are stakeholders. We have a stake in the matter and thus have the right to intervene in this proposal,” he said.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee said the team of lawyers had started working on the case yesterday, following news of the Petronas legal action.

“If Petronas wins the case, it means all our oil resources, 100%, will belong to Petronas and not the people of Sabah and Sarawak. The stakes are high, which is why the Sarawak government has engaged private lawyers, not just the Sarawak attorney-general,” he said.

“If Sarawak loses, the same ruling may apply to Sabah also. From 5% cash payment, we are surprised that under this Malaysia Baru, Petronas now want to grab 100% of the oil ownership.”

Yong urged the Sabah government to pursue the matter without compromise.

“Do not fear political consequences. This is for the petroleum rights of Sabah.

“Don’t forget, other than the PDA, there is also the Territorial Sea Act. All of the continental shelf belongs to Sabah, including the resources. This is another issue.”

Yong added that this was a fast moving issue, and that the state government must take quick action.

“Not just in Sabah and Sarawak. There are also lawyers acting on behalf of Kelantan and Terengganu in the peninsula,” he said.

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Petronas seeks court declaration on ownership of petroleum resources