Sarawak speaker rejects motion to reveal terms of Petronas deal

KUCHING: Sarawak legislative assembly speaker Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar today dismissed an assemblyman’s motion for the state government to reveal the full settlement terms with Petronas on Sarawak’s sales tax for petroleum products.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How had said the terms laid out in the joint statement signed by the State Assistant Minister for Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali and the chairman of Petronas, published on May 8, were not fully disclosed

“The agreement for Petronas to pay RM2 billion to settle the sales tax imposed on their petroleum products for 2019, and for the future sales tax on petroleum products to be reduced and staggered based on negotiations will have detrimental and dire financial consequences for the state,” he said.

“The state’s concession to expressly accept that all previous agreements between the two parties made under the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA 1974) are still valid and enforceable, and that Petronas is still recognised as having full ownership and control over national oil and gas development in line with the Federal Constitution, are concessions made in contravention of the desires, demands, decisions and resolutions of this August House and of Sarawakians, is unacceptable by this Dewan.”

However, Asfia said the motion had to be referred to the Sarawak Consultative Committee on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 before it could be brought to the assembly.

When contacted by FMT, DAP’s Bukit Assek assemblyman Irene Chang said news of the settlement had been “shocking beyond words”.

She added that it would compromise the state’s rights in bringing up the issue of its legality in favour of the state.

“For the past few years, Gabungan Parti Sarawak made many public stands that PDA 1974, together with the Territorial Seas Act 2012, were not relevant to Sarawak as they were not endorsed by the state legislative assembly.”

She urged Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg to clarify why the terms were not brought to the consultative committee before they were agreed on.

She said the committee last met in September and had parted on the understanding that the state government should pursue the matter in court, in the event that the federal government failed to pay the sales tax by October.

A group of Sarawak NGOs meanwhile said the agreement had diminished the state’s bargaining power and made it more dependent on the federal government.

The NGOs, comprising the Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations, Sarawak for Sarawakians, Sabah Sarawak Rights Australia New Zealand, Dayak Rights Action Force, Solidarity Anak Sarawak, Son of Sarawak, YATT Society Sarawak and the Movement for Change Sarawak, said it should have been brought to the assemblymen as well as the people for approval.

They also noted a recent decision by the Kuching High Court that Sabah and Sarawak had the right to impose the sales tax on Petronas.

“It is also incomprehensible as to why Sarawak should gradually decrease the 5% sales tax rate imposed on the oil firm when all other oil companies operating in Sarawak territory have paid the tax in full without question except Petronas which squandered taxpayers’ money to challenge it.”

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