SARAWAK was quick to celebrate the Federal Court’s dismissal of Petronas’ legal challenge to obtain ownership rights over all petroleum resources in the country, even as the oil company’s lawyer cautioned that the fight was not over.
Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said the state will now enforce all state laws regulating the oil and gas industry which includes requiring Petronas to obtain approval for its activities in Sarawak.
He said all companies, including Petronas, must by July 1 have the necessary licences, permits, leases and approvals required under either the Sarawak Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO) 1958 or the Gas Distribution Ordinance 2016.
Abang Johari, in a statement responding to the Federal Court’s decision, said it had paved the way for the state government to enforce its state laws, such as the OMO.
He also said state oil company Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros) will be delegated the appropriate powers to implement the OMO.
However, Petronas’ lead counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said the apex court had only ruled that the case did not come under its jurisdiction and had asked for it to be heard in the High Court instead.
Malik was reported by The Malay Mail saying that the Federal Court’s decision was on a “procedural matter” and that the issue was “still very much alive, not been decided in any way”.
The merits of the case have not been decided, he added.
In addition to seeking ownership of the country’s petroleum resources, Petronas also wants the court to declare the Sarawak OMO as overridden by the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA). The OMO was drafted before Malaysia was formed.
The OMO was used by the Sarawak government to inform Petronas that the state would regulate its upstream oil and gas activities from July 1.
Abang Johari has previously said that the OMO would be amended to update its provisions, with a bill to be tabled at the state legislative assembly next month.
Malik today said the federal court’s did not make any decision on the PDA or the OMO, adding that he would wait for further instructions from Petronas before any filing at the High Court.
Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii also expressed caution over any move to celebrate the Federal Court decision today.
In a Facebook post he said Sarawak had to “keep our eyes on the ball and not get ahead of ourselves”, adding that he expected Petronas to take the matter to the High Court.
“While I congratulate the legal team for their efforts and success, there is still an ambiguity in law and technically the status quo still stands.
“PDA 1974 wasn’t repealed, nor was there a ruling to say it does not apply in Sarawak. The legal argument is not about ‘ownership’ but more on regulatory powers of the upstream activities in Sarawak,” Yii said. – June 22, 2018.