MA63 activist on how May 13 riots in KL impacted Sabah

Malaysia Agreement 1963 activist Zainnal Ajamain hopes the Sabah government gets back control of oil rights. (Reuters pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The May 13 racial violence 51 years ago today not only dramatically changed Peninsular Malaysia but was also the beginning of the federal government taking control of Sabah’s oil and gas resources, an activist claimed today.

Malaysia Agreement 1963 activist Zainnal Ajamain said this process did not happen overnight but it led to Sabah signing a petroleum deal in 1976 and the federal government taking control of Sabah’s oil rights.

“Before 1969, Sabah had the necessary laws to allow any firm to do oil exploration and mining,” he told FMT in recalling events related to Sabah and Sarawak losing control after May 13.

It started in 1968, when the then chief minister, the late Mustapha Datu Harun, signed an oil exploration agreement with Japan, he said.

Activist Zainnal Ajamain.

Zainnal said the federal government wanted control but was not able to extend the Continental Shelf Act and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966 to Sabah and Sarawak, which had just formed Malaysia together with Malaya in 1963.

When the sectarian violence broke out on May 13, 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Zainnal said the federal government took the opportunity to impose a state of emergency and enforced the Petroleum Mining Act on the East Malaysian states under Emergency Essential Power No. 7 of 1969.

“This reduced the Sabah and Sarawak continental shelf from 350 miles to just three nautical miles.

“The federal government gazetted and enforced the Continental Shelf Act 1966 and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966 on Sabah and Sarawak.”

He noted that the violence was confined to Peninsular Malaysia but Sabah was placed under emergency, too, leading to suspicion that federal leaders used it as an excuse to take over Sabah’s natural resources.

He said the federal government then established Petronas to manage the oil and gas wealth through the Petroleum Development Act 1974.

“Mustapha refused to bow down to Kuala Lumpur and that was why, in 1976, the Usno government led by Mustapha was pulled down, and the petroleum deal was signed by the 44-day-old Berjaya government,” Zainnal claimed.

That was the year, he said, Sabah lost control of its oil and gas resources.

Despite the lifting of the emergency law in 2011, Putrajaya continued to assert control over the state’s wealth, he said.

He hoped the current Sabah government would get back what belonged to Sabah.

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