Settle concerns over petroleum act in Federal Court, says Sarawak deputy speaker

Sarawak says the Federal Court will be able to decide on the state’s oil rights ‘once and for all’. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Sarawak’s deputy speaker has suggested that concerns over the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA 1974) in regards to the state’s oil rights be referred to the Federal Court to resolve the dispute “once and for all”.

Gerawat Gala said both Sarawak and Petronas had their legal position as to whether or not the PDA is applicable to Sarawak.

The Mulu assemblyman stressed that the state was not questioning the validity of the PDA itself, but said the issue had been a longstanding controversy, with parties offering differing views.

“I would suggest for this issue to be put to rest once and for all by referring it to the Federal Court,” he said in a statement, adding that it would be in Sarawak’s interest and that of the national oil company to do so.

Gerawat said Sarawak or Petronas could refer to the apex court for an advisory opinion which would be legally binding, “or under Article 130 of the Federal Constitution for the exercise of its original jurisdiction by making a legal pronouncement on the dispute”.

His statement comes days after Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg dismissed the notion that the state had surrendered its rights on oil and gas to Putrajaya.

Abang Johari said it was only an understanding that while the PDA would be recognised elsewhere in the country, in Sarawak, the issue would be governed by the Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO) 1958.

Earlier this month, a joint statement by Petronas and the Chief Minister’s Department said all previous agreements made under the PDA 1974 remained valid and in force.

Petronas, it said, was still recognised as the national oil company that acquired full authority in regulating the development of the oil and gas in the country.

Gerawat said the state held licensing rights under the OMO, which was still valid, as it had the rights to the oil and gas in Sarawak.

“The PDA which was enacted well after OMO did not repeal OMO or grant Petronas exemption from any of our state laws, so OMO is still a good law which Petronas must comply with,” he said.

He said the PDA only granted Petronas exemption from the Petroleum Mining Act 1966, which was not applicable in Sarawak.

In any event, he said, PDA was subject to the Federal Constitution, which “is the supreme law of the country” which also recognised the OMO.

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