Sarawak has rights over port ownership and operations, says PBB man

Bintulu Port in Sarawak. (Facebook pic)

KUCHING: A Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leader claims that Sarawak’s right to its ports are connected to its land rights.

PBB information chief Idris Buang said all the ports and harbours in Sarawak, including the control of their traffic and activities, surcharge dues and levies, were the sole domain of the state as stated under the Federal Constitution.

He said this was clear from reading the Tenth Schedule, Part V on Additional Revenues Assigned To Sabah and Sarawak, as well as Item 15 of the State List IIA under the Ninth Schedule Article 95B (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

He said the federal government’s rights over ports were those that covered the land of any state declared and gazetted to be federal land for that purpose. Such declaration, he added, could only be obtained by it through a process stated in the Sarawak Land Code.

Idris, who is Muara Tuang assemblyman, said Deputy Chief Minister James Masing had, therefore, raised a valid point when he said the Bintulu Port, established under the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981 as a federal body under the transport ministry, might not be completely legal if it never got the nod of the state legislative assembly.

“On the face of it, strictly, I think it is voidable. Being a voidable arrangement, it needs to be properly adopted or formalised by our state legislative assembly, if it chooses to and upon its terms.

Idris Buang. (Facebook pic)

“But if the state legislative assembly refuses to take that stand, then it should have the option to treat it as voidable and seek restitution,” he said.

Although land in the state was constitutionally held in accordance with state law, Idris said he was unsure if “due process” had been done for Bintulu Port.

“Therefore, we need to review whether all the legal requirements and processes in respect of Bintulu Port were complied with or otherwise,” he said.

Masing, who is also Sarawak infrastructure and ports development minister, had said the Sarawak government would study if the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981, which was enacted by Parliament, was “enforceable” in Sarawak.

“The state government is looking at our constitutional rights over state assets which the federal government has been administering over the years,” he said.

He said he believed some laws that were passed in Parliament would not apply in Sarawak without being endorsed by its state legislative assembly.

“As an example, the Territorial Sea Act, which was passed by Parliament in 2012, cannot be implemented in Sarawak because the state assembly did not endorse it,” he said.

Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook had criticised the Sarawak government for wanting to take control of Bintulu Port as it is under federal purview.

He said it would not be easy for Sarawak to take charge of Bintulu Port as it was established as a federal body under the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981.