Motion to revoke Petronas agreement — a litmus test for all Sabah state assemblymen


By Political analyst dan Secretary General of Parti Cinta Sabah Mohd Ustar Abdul Ghani


KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans bide as the August House sits on the 18th to 21st July 2022. Ewon Benedick and Phoong Jin Zhe, lawmakers for Kadamaian and Luyang respectively accepted Tan Sri Harris Salleh’s challenge to move a motion in the Sabah State Legislative Assembly to revoke the Petronas agreement signed by Harris on the 14th June 1976 immediately following the demise of Tun Fuad Stephens and other cabinet ministers in the ill fated Double Six tragedy.

Harris contended having complied with the Petroleum Development Act 1974 to allow Petronas having exclusive rights to oil found within the perimeters of Sabah’s continental shelf reciprocating a 5% royalty offer.

The PDA 1974 was enacted through Parliament and came into force on the 1st October 1974 after Petronas was set up on the 17th August 1974. Obviously the preparation of PDA 1974 was envisaged as a pre-emptive step to allow Petronas gain control of oil found in the oil producing states.

Section 2 of the PDA vest entire ownership of petroleum lying onshore or offshore as well as exclusive rights, power, liberty and privilege of exploring, exploiting, mining and obtaining it, a postulation that recognises the oil producing states surrendering their sovereign rights and control over oil to Petronas.

To effectively implement the PDA, the Territorial Sea Act 2012 known as Act 750 was enacted on the 22nd June 2012. This Act posited a three nautical miles (5.5 km) jurisdiction on all states over their territorial waters from the coastline and res ipsa loquitur altering the territorial boundaries of the states.

The tabling of the Bill on TSA 2012 drew heated debates not the least it involves constitutional discrepancies. Question begs, “if Sabah should surrender its boundaries, shouldn’t it be acknowledged by its State Legislative Assembly”.

Section 3(3) of the TSA 2012 limits the territorial waters of a state to three nautical miles contended as to comply with the Law of the Sea Convention 1982 (LOSC) when a more sinister motive was seen as to assume the ownership of all continental shelf and territorial waters off Sabah.

Kelantan have since approved a motion to reject TSA 2012 on the 5th November 2015. Sarawak unanimously rejected TSA 2012 on the 8th December 2015, a stern reminder to the Federal government to reconsider its decision.

The constitutionality of TSA 2012 is in jeopardy not the least it was enacted in contravention of the constitutional provisions and therefore null and void and of no effect.

Pursuant to Article 1(3) of the Federal Constitution, the territory of the State of Sabah is the territory comprised therein the federation of Malaysia immediately before Malaysia day September 16 1963 meaning sovereignty over the continental shelf as was first laid down by the North Borneo (Alteration of Boundaries) Order in Council 1954.

As expressed in Section 4(g) of the Sabah Land Ordinance, the area of the continental shelf being the seabed and its subsoil which lies beneath the high seas contiguous to the territorial waters of Sabah.

Article 2 of the Federal Constitution provides that Parliament may by law alter the boundaries to any State but a law altering the boundaries SHALL not be passed without the consent of the state in a state legislative and of the Conference of Rulers.

What that literally means is the agreement signed by Harris must first seek the approval of the state legislative and the enactment and enforcement of TSA 2012 must have the consent of the Conference of Rulers.

No law was passed in Sabah state assembly to support the altering of the boundary of Sabah and consequence to the tabling in Parliament of the Territorial Sea Bill 2012 it fails to stipulate that prior consent of the Conference of Rulers had been obtained which renders the whole agreement untenable.

The August House sitting from the 18th to 21st July will determine which direction our lawmakers will be headed to. We have had betrayal after betrayal for the last six decades. It is high time the state legislative members show an unequivocal support for the motion of rejecting the agreement in toto.

The motion to revoke the Petronas agreement is by far a litmus test for all assemly members. It will be divided along the line of political integrity and political willingness. A political integrity that will serve to fight for our rights or succumb to the wishes of our political master.

We, Sabahans expect our leaders to be steadfast in facing the onslaught of the many betrayals and treacheries. This is not a motion of being confrontational. It is a believe that injustices should be corrected and justice be upheld.

It has been six decades of broken promises and exploits. Doing the right thing is arduous but not doing the right thing is the highest order of treachery and betrayal.

The oil issue and other issues are those which constantly beg our wisdom, bravery and loyalty. The motion to revoke the Petronas agreement should be supported at all cost. There can never be an opportune time to show unity. It is really literally hard to believe that Sabah has become the poorest State despite being the biggest producer of oil in Malaysia. I leave you with this to ponder

“Whoever controls oil controls much more than oil”.

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