Getting SESB, Sabah energy commission back a must
Published on: Sunday, September 11, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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Brief history of Sabah’s energy woes. Sabah owned SESB which, to our shame, was badly managed. Power failures, brown outs and shutdowns were a daily affair, Sandakan and Tawau suffered worst. Power theft was widespread too. These have created chaos and stunted Sabah’s economic development. Businesses, especially SMEs, suffered massively. Impossible for industries. Apart from mismanagement, SESB suffered from price increases in diesel which was then its main fuel by Petronas. To stamp the financial bleedings, Sabah sold SESB to TNB. Blame who? Sabahan political leaders for having allowed bad management and failure to secure an equitable supply of diesel at an affordable price from Petronas. After all, the petroleum was pumped from our territory. It is ours in the first place. Such was the sorry tales of Sabah’s weak economic leadership.

Admittedly, SESB under TNB has improved. However, its performance has not been entirely satisfactory, its failure to produce sufficient power for Sabah’s industrialization up to now. Power disruptions are still common in the East Coast. Looking into the future, Hajiji’s vision for Sabah and his unparallel success in attracting domestic investments and FDI, SESB under TNB cannot be relied on to cater for Sabah’s long-term power requirements. Sabah must “take the bull by the horns” or else Sabah will be left behind further. Hence the significance of Hajiji’s combined strategy in oil/gas, reacquiring SESB and the formation of Sabah Energy Commission. 

Hajiji’s next strategic moves: Take back SESB and formation of SESB.

Hajiji has announced that the Sabah government will take action to form Sabah Energy Commission and to reacquire SESB on 26th August 2022. These two are the next stage of his strategy.

Hajiji’s first move was to regain Sabah’s rights in oil/gas: [a] Commercial Collaborative agreement. [b] Sales tax on petroleum products. [c] Construction of LNG plant in SOGIT. [d] Sabah Gas Master Plan which will entitle Sabah to 25% of gas produced in Sabah. This was ZERO before. Sabah’s gas was pumped to Bintulu. These are advance work in progress.

This gas master plan is absolutely crucial and fundamental as 80% of SESB’s current power generation is gas based. Also, for Sabah’s future requirements for gas-base industrialization.

Hinging on the Sabah Gas Master Plan, Hajiji is set to implement his next strategic move [a] Reacquiring back SESB at zero financial liabilities and [b] Formation of Sabah Energy Commission. Under the current system, Sabah has zero authority on power generation. 

Total power is vested with Malaysian Power Commission even for mini hydro, gen-sets of all sizes and solar panels for household use. Sarawak has its own Sarawak Energy Commission.

Graduates of Sabahans First Policy. Sabah will need thousands of qualified yound Sabahans in oil/gas like these graduates from TAS Institute of Oil/gas.

These 2 complex moves will take time. Ultimately the Sabah Energy Commission when formed, will enable Sabah to have complete authority over all manners of power generations. No longer has Sabah to kneel and beg for approvals the Malaysia Energy Commission. Even now Sabah’s knees are on the floor for approvals for some mini hydro dams.

Hajiji’s 2 actions will position Sabah to ultimately control our economic destiny which has eluded us for more than 30 years. Insufficient power means little or no economic development.


Not requiring back SESB from TNB is not a long-term solution for Sabah’s future. For sure, Sabah’s economic development and growth would be stunted. Sabah MUST form the Sabah Energy Commission so that we can act in our interest. Power is central to Hajiji’s overall strategy for the development of a number of industries for which he has succeeded in promoting [a] ITP downstream. He has already announced his ITP policy on 17th January 2021. The ITP downstream will require power. ITP will generate 80,000 jobs. [b] Soon to be launched is the mining industry which will require about 1,000 MW. [c] Oil and gas down- stream for which some major investment MOUs and agreements have already been signed. [d] High tech industry like silicon metal. [e] Silica factory. [e] On-going construction for copper foil manufacturing in KKIP.

Hajiji has attracted a total of RM48 billion since September 2021. Sabah cannot wait for snail pace power development from TNB’s SESB.

Sabah Energy Commission and Sabah owned SESB will benefit Sabah big time.

The takeover of SESB and formation of the Sabah Energy Commission are the critical 2 missing puzzle parts to expedite our economic development. The reacquired SESB will utilize the gas that Petronas will give to Sabah under the Sabah Gas Master Plan. With the gas Petronas has agreed to provide Sabah, more power generation plants can be built. 

The Sabah Energy Commission can look into and approve all power generations including mini hydro, wind power, solar power. With the completion of the Southern Link Sabah’s electricity distribution loop will finally be finished. Sabah’s power supply will be stabilized.

By the way, it has been established that the northern part of Sabah has the best, most efficient locations for wind mills and solar farms in Malaysia. A few investors have expressed interest.

Hajiji’s strategy can achieve power sufficiency for Sabah. Can Sabah manage SESB and Sabah Energy Commission?

A good question. The answer is yes. Hajiji has managed to put together a team of Sabahans who are highly qualified in the oi/gas industry to negotiate with Petronas such as Datuk Seri Lim, Datuk Seri Wee. More Sabahans like them are coming forward to help. Results? Within a few months, Sabah and Petronas have reached some very important agreements on the subjects I have mentioned earlier. These have eluded Sabah for more than 30years. No doubt about it, Hajiji will also select best possible Sabahans to manage SESB and Sabah Energy Commission.

Political unity, skilled man power, entrepreneurs.

Quality of success of Hajiji’s stratetgic economic development plan will hinge on these 3 factors a lot.

[a] We can see the political mess unfolding in W Malaysia when politicians get silly and too selfish. We have also experienced stunted economic growth in the past in Sabah and the damages it has inflicted. For Sabah to chart a new dynamic economic development path, Sabah politicians must unite for the sake of Sabahans. They must focus on Sabah’s economic development especially oil/gas as Hajiji has already made so much progress in preparing its foundation.

[b] For Sabahans, especially young Sabahans to benefit from Hajiji’s plan, many more thousands must be trained to fill the jobs that are coming in oil/gas and other investments. Now, only a handful Sabahans are taking up courses in oil/gas at the TAS Oil and Gas Institute in KKIP. We need more, many more. I understand one investor has difficulty in employing 100 engineers.

[c] Sabah entrepreneurs must be proactively taking up the opportunities that Hajiji’s strategic plan will produce in the near future. Sabahans must control our economy, our industry, our plantations. We cannot and must not allow another palm oil situation to happen.

Sabahans must embrace Sabahans First Policy with passion and earnestness. Hajiji can lead the proverbial “horse to water but he can’t make him drink”. All his efforts will amount to little if Sabahans are reluctant to support and accept the coming challenges and opportunities. Sabah’s future fortune must be made available to Sabahans who love our state, definitely not in the hands of uncaring political leaders, sceptics, cynics and non-Sabahans. Sabah needs Sabahans to take charge of the ownership of our state, not to give up or give in easily for selfish reasons. Sabahans must protect Sabah’s rights bearing in mind that nobody else will or would do the fighting for us. Sabahans cannot wait for manna to fall from heaven. We must build up Sabah’s economy for all Sabahans to enjoy better lives, higher income, more job and business opportunities. We should celebrate the birth of many more Sabahan millionaires and billionaires. Why not? After all, many non-Sabahans have become millionaires/billionaires from Sabah’s wealth and resources in the past 30/40 years. They don’t even bother to reinvest or create jobs for Sabahans.

Sabahans must not be detracted from achieving our economic development by the current political circus in W Malaysia, the pandemic and global uncertainties. We must unite for greater and faster economic development.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk John Lo and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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