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KL's change of heart on considering higher oil and gas royalties

Published on: Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Secretary General Datuk Johnny Mositun believes Sabah will get similar consideration as Sarawak from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the context of increased oil royalties.

He said it was heartening to note that the Prime Minister was willing to give utmost consideration to the Sarawak State Government's request for an increase in oil royalties for the state.

"It is good that our Prime Minister has not rejected outright Sarawak's request for an increase in oil royalties, unlike all past Prime Ministers who simply refused to even consider the matter," he said, when contacted, Tuesday.

However, he said since the matter had not been brought up officially through the State Assembly he was not in the position to say how Sabah would raise the issue with Kuala Lumpur.

"After all there are other avenues the Sabah State Government can use to resolve the matter with Kuala Lumpur. It is best to be left to the Chief Minister and the Cabinet to decide on the approach Sabah should take," Mositun said.

He said Sabahans had long been demanding for an increase in oil royalties from Petronas and that the Federal Government had been aware of these demands for some time now.

"But as the Prime Minister has said, the matter must be carefully studied before it can be acted upon. Petroleum is a strategic national asset and a major contributor to the national treasury.

"We should hope for a win-win outcome for Sabah," he said. Mositun said Sabahans could hope for some good news on the matter when the Prime Minister visits Sabah in the middle of this month.

"At least I think so. Surely Datuk Seri Najib would not want to be seen as treating Sabah differently from Sarawak on this issue.

And if he says that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem had 'whispered' it to his ears, who is to say our own Chief Minister had also not already done the same without any publicity."

During the Malaysia Gawai Dayak Open House 2014 at Dataran Kipas in Miri, Sarawak on Monday, Najib had said that the Federal Government had no qualms about negotiating on any matters with the Sarawak State Government over its interest.

"We are willing to listen and talk. Whether it will be such an increase in oil royalty or whether we can look at other forms of increasing the allocation direct into the State accounts, let us consider," said Najib.

The Sarawak State Assembly had in May approved a motion to seek an increase in oil royalty from five per cent to 20 per cent from the Federal Government.

The opposition took a different view on the issue Star Sabah Chief Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said Najib's impromptu favourable response to Sarawak's request put the Sabah Government and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders in a bad light.

He said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's speech may not be off the cuff given that the Sarawak State Assembly had adopted the motion unanimously seeking higher oil royalties.

"It was nonetheless very significant and important that Adenan had taken the occasion of the Prime Minister's presence at the Malaysia Gawai Dayak Open House in Miri to make the request.

"Adenan's request certainly has no parallel in Sabah where the Sabah government and its BN leaders have been muted in their stand on higher oil royalties," he said, in a statement.

He claimed Sabah Umno leaders were nowhere to be seen or heard on Sabah's oil and gas rights. "Some of the other component parties had to resort to getting their youth wings to make a stand while their senior leaders were dumbfounded," he said.

Dr Jeffrey said at the legislative assembly level, it was a no-contest between Sabah and Sarawak. "The Sarawak lawmakers had made an unequivocal and clear-cut 71-0 demand for higher royalties. But on the Sabah front, a similar motion to debate on Sabah's oil rights and royalties was flatly rejected.

"With this latest development, the Sabah government and its leaders should re-assess their position and make a positive stand and at least demand for higher royalties if not for return of the oil ownership rights as well as shares in Petronas," he said.

"After all, they have been boasting of and harping on the good and cordial relationship with the Federal Government," said Dr Jeffrey.

"Perhaps, the Chief Minister can go one up on his counterpart in Sarawak by seeking shares in Petronas for Sabah and all the oil-producing States," he said.

Sabah Reform Movement President Datuk Wilfred Bumburing said the PM should and must respond to the demand from Sabah and Sarawak with regards to the oil and gas royalty.

"The Sarawak Chief Minister had the courage to speak to the Prime Minister because it had been passed in the Sarawak State Assembly where the motion had been supported by its members and thus he has the entire Sarawak State Assembly backing him," he said.

"Similar voices from among Sabahans have been heard and are growing louder by the day lately but the Sabah State Government seems to have no guts in bringing it up to the State Assembly for resolution to be made let alone to forward the matter to the Federal Government.

"Instead the State government talks about equity which is totally irrelevant.

What would be the outcome in as far as Sabah is concerned should the Federal Government decide to agree to the demand put forward by the Sarawak Government? Sabah and Sabahans would definitely be left out.

"And this is all thanks to the Sabah BN leaders who are always quick to react in defending the Federal Government on matters relating to Sabah's right within Malaysia.

"I strongly believe the current State Government is going against the tide of resentment in as far as the growing consciousness among Sabahans in speaking for their rights is concerned.

"The Sabah BN Government and their elected representatives be they in the State Assembly or Parliament must demand from the Federal Government what should rightfully belong to Sabah, not just oil and gas, but a whole lot of issues affecting the social fabric of every Sabahan," he said, in his statement.

Api-Api Assemblywoman Christina Liew said Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has been championing the need to increase Sabah's oil royalty from 5pc to 20pc.

"In fact, this issue was incorporated into the PR's Election Manifesto for the 13th General Election last year, whereby PR would make good the pledge if it formed the Government.

"Sarawak is showing the way. Let us learn from the Sarawak Government's move," she said, adding that she is willing to table a motion to seek an increase in oil royalties for Sabah from 5pc to 20pc during the next State Legislative Assembly sitting next month (July).

"Both sides of the political divide must render their support, just as what the Sarawak State Assembly did.

Both the Government and the Opposition spoke in one voice," she pointed out.