Sarawak CM: Devolution talks tomorrow to cover resource rich territorial waters, finances

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg (second left) at the joint opening of six PBB branches annual general meetings, January 21, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Jan 21 — The Sarawak state and federal governments will begin the second phase negotiation on returning autonomy to the Borneo state in Putrajaya tomorrow, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said today.

He said the second phase will be more complex as it involves constitutional matters, including the territorial waters belonging to Sarawak where oil and gas reserves are found.

“That is why we need legal and constitutional experts to be in our negotiation team,” Abang Johari said at the joint opening of the annual general meetings of six Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) branches here.

He said the state team will be led by state Attorney-General Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid while Putrajaya will be represented by federal Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali.

Abang Johari said the second phase talks will also focus on financial issues under the state’s rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“Whether we will get back those rights or not, just wait and see,” he said, adding that the state is determined to reclaim its rights lost over the years, either knowingly or unknowingly to the federal government.

Abang Johari said the state was able to reclaim 13 administrative powers in the first phase talks between his predecessor Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, two years ago.

He said these included the authority for state legal officers to prosecute offences under state ordinances from the stage a person is charged in the lower courts until the appeal stage.