Why should we pay for what’s already ours, say Sabah leaders on Petronas stakes

KOTA KINABALU: Some Sabah leaders are up in arms over the idea of the state taking up shares in Petronas, saying the suggestion by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is akin to buying property that already belongs to Sabah.

Sabah opposition leader Jeffrey Kitingan said Petronas should have been jointly owned by Putrajaya and the oil producing states.

“But what has happened over the years? Putrajaya has taken it all – oil profit and taxes.

“Now they want to sell what already belongs to us. They want to give us a company that has already robbed the wealth from our natural resources,” he told FMT.

The Keningau MP said it would be foolish for either Sabah or Sarawak to accept such an offer as land, including the resources extracted from the sub-soil, is a state matter.

He added that Petronas had been profiting from oil from Sabah and Sarawak for 40 years. If it was in fact facing financial trouble and therefore unable to give the states the 20% oil royalty promised by Pakatan Harapan (PH) in its election manifesto, he said Petronas should return its right to extract oil and gas in East Malaysia.

“We will drill ourselves,” he said. “We can give them the 5% and collect the tax. Let us manage it if they say they are barely staying afloat.”

Mahathir said in an interview with Reuters that the government would consider selling Petronas stakes to Sabah and Sarawak, as the two states demand a bigger share of revenues from oil extracted in their territories.

He said Putrajaya could not meet the states’ demand to increase the royalties paid by Petronas to 20%, but that government could let go of its stakes in smaller units of Petronas.

Sabah and Sarawak hold more than 60% of Malaysia’s oil reserves.

Activist Zainnal Ajamain agreed with Kitingan that Sabah should not acquire a company already jointly owned by the East Malaysian states.

If the offer is made, he added, Sabah should reject it.

He also said that Sabah had not created the debts faced by Putrajaya, and that the 20% oil royalty had been PH’s own promise.

“We had no part in the 1MDB scandal, so why should we take responsibility and endure the hardship?

“Petronas profited from Sabah’s natural resources for more than 40 years, and now when they can no longer make money due to deep sea operations, they want to give the company to us.”

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee said the oil and gas in Sabah and Sarawak belong to the states to begin with.

“I urge the governments of Sabah and Sarawak to reject the idea outright so that the implementation of the 20% royalty can proceed without further delay,” the SAPP president said.

Institute for Development Studies Sabah chairman Simon Sipaun urged Putrajaya to fulfil its pledge to raise the oil royalty for Sabah and Sarawak from 5% to 20%, warning of a trust deficit if it failed to do so.

If Putrajaya is having trouble settling what is due to Sabah because of its debt, he said, it should allow the state government to collect revenue itself and take its share first.

“This way, Putrajaya will no longer be able to accumulate debt to Sabah,” Sipaun said, adding that Putrajaya had already violated the constitution by shortchanging the state of its revenue entitlement.

Under the constitution, Sabah is entitled to 40% of its revenue entitlement. However, Putrajaya only doubled the amount of fixed payments from RM26.7 million to RM53 million in the recent budget tabling.

Under the original terms, Putrajaya would return the revenue collected from Sabah in accrued payments. However, Sabah has been receiving fixed payments since 1974.

Penampang MP Darell Leiking said Putrajaya would need to state how much it owes Sabah in terms of revenue and allow it room to consider any offer made.

He said Sabah also needs to know the actual value of Petronas and its companies, including its income.

“The state should also consider taking control of new ventures by Sabah in its oil and gas ventures such as being able to manage our own O&G business,” he said.