Sarawak CM’s office rubbishes claim by DAP on Petronas stake

The government says it may offer a stake in Petronas to Sarawak and Sabah. (Reuters pic)

KUCHING: The chief minister’s office today said the purchase of stakes in Petronas is not among the issues discussed by the steering committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

It said details concerning oil and gas are only deliberated in special discussions between the prime minister and the Sarawak and Sabah chief ministers.

The office rubbished a claim by Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen that Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had agreed in principle to purchase a stake in Petronas during an MA63 steering committee meeting.

It said Chong was not privy to detailed information with regards to the oil and gas share issues and not an authority to divulge any information on such a discussion, if any.

Sarawak, it said, already had stakes in Petronas’ LNG subsidiaries and was an equity partner in Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS).

“It must be noted that the purchase of stakes in Petronas’ subsidiary companies cannot be equated with a similar purchase in Petronas proper as the parent company,” it said.

On Friday, Chong had said the idea of Sabah and Sarawak buying a stake in Petronas was “good” and that the states should not miss the opportunity to do so.

But state tourism minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said Chong was only looking for an “exit” from his election promise to return 20% of the oil royalty and 50% of tax revenue collected from Sarawak to the state.

Chong had, in a speech at the state legislative assembly in 2017, promised that if Pakatan Harapan took control of the federal government, it would return 20% of the royalty paid on oil and gas production and 50% of the taxes collected from Sarawak to the state.

Karim also described the offer to sell a stake in Petronas to Sabah and Sarawak as an “insult” to the people of the two states.

In response, Chong criticised Karim and claimed that it was the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government that had repeatedly “insulted” Sarawakians.

“The state government had purchased 5% share in Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd, 10% share in Malaysia LNG Dua Sdn Bhd, 25% share in Malaysia LNG Tiga Sdn Bhd and 10% share in Petronas LNG 9 Sdn Bhd.

“If Karim’s ‘insult’ logic does stand, then by purchasing the shares in these LNG companies, the GPS government has repeatedly ‘insulted’ the people of Sarawak,” he said.

Karim, however, said Chong did not explain that all these four companies were “private limited” companies incorporated under the Companies Act.

Each company had on its board a director appointed by the state government to protect the state’s interest, he said.

“Petronas, on the other hand, is a different entity and was set up by Parliament via the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974 without getting the Sabah and Sarawak governments’ blessings,” he told FMT.

He said Petronas was wholly owned by the federal government and answerable only to the prime minister.