CM says Sarawak right to own oil immutable by law

BY SULOK TAWIE
Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said that the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974 and Territorial Sea Act (TSA) 2012 were “not relevant” to his state’s plan to appropriate all oil and gas activity in its territory. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, March 8 — Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg dismissed a state lawmaker’s claim that two pieces of federal legislation must be amended for Sarawak to lay claim to its own oil, saying that such rights were already defined in the Federal Constitution.

The Sarawak chief minister went on to say that the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974 and Territorial Sea Act (TSA) 2012 were “not relevant” to his state’s plan to appropriate all oil and gas activity in its territory.

“Any law that is ultra vires to the Federal Constitution as provided for under Article 4 is void,” he told reporters today.

The Article holds the Federal Constitution to be the supreme law of the federation, and any law passed after Merdeka Day that is inconsistent with the Constitution shall be void.

Abang Johari stressed that he was simply executing his duties as chief minister when he announced on Tuesday that the state government would assume full regulatory authority over the upstream and downstream aspects of the oil and gas industry in Sarawak, by July this year.

When asked if Sarawak will seek the repeal the two laws in question, he said such questions should be directed at the federal government.

The chief minister was speaking at  a press conference after opening a seminar on coastal road development here.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing, who was also present at the press conference, said that TSA altered Sarawak’s boundaries, but was never endorsed by the state legislative assembly.

“They (federal government) can table all kinds of Acts, but without the endorsement of our DUN (State Legislative Assembly), such Acts cannot be extended to Sarawak,” he asserted.

Yesterday, Sarawak PKR vice chairman and Batu Lintang state lawmaker See Chee How claimed the PDA and TAS must be repealed or amended to allow Sarawak full control over all petroleum activities in its waters.

He claimed the PDA gave state oil firm Petronas total ownership and exclusive rights to the country’s petroleum resources.