Chong (second left) and Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong (left) sharing a light-hearted moment with Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (third left), Abdul Karim (third right), Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian (right) and State Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar (second right). — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi
KUCHING: State Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen has suggested that the Sarawak government make the first move and file a case in the High Court if it is serious about reclaiming its rights over oil and gas in the state.
This, he said, would ensure that the sole authority over upstream oil and gas activities in Sarawak is clarified once and for all.
“I think as a responsible government, you have to take the matter to court to find out whether the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) 1974 or the Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO) by the state prevails.
“Currently, it’s causing a lot of uncertainties in the oil and gas industry and this has to be clarified,” he told reporters when met after paying Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah a Raya visit at his Hari Raya open house held at Penview Convention Centre here yesterday.
He was commenting on the Federal Court’s dismissal of Petroliam Nasional Berhad’s (Petronas) application to commence proceedings to determine that the national oil company is the sole authority of all upstream oil and gas activities in the country, including Sarawak.
Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop had on Friday rejected Petronas’ application of leave to commence proceeding on the matter in the Federal Court.
Chong, who is also Sarawak DAP chairman, said the Federal Court’s decision did not clarify on whether the state government or Petronas has authority over oil and gas in the state.
“It’s neither a victory nor loss for either party at the moment and Petronas was asked to pay RM50,000 to the state government because it has filed in the wrong court.
“But it did not clarify the position of the law and now with this uncertainty on whether PDA or the state has the power, I think it has to be sorted out,” he opined.
The Stampin MP reiterated that if the state government is serious, it should file the case at the High Court as once this issue has been determined in the court of law, there would not be any conflict.
“If at the end of the day, the court says you (state government) have no claim, the state can still fall back on the 20 per cent oil royalty we (PH) have offered.
“In the oil and gas industry, a 20 per cent oil royalty is almost the maximum you can earn from extraction and sale of oil because you have the cost, research and development, and oil exploration cost to take into consideration,” he remarked.
He added that there was no point for the Sarawak government to state that it has the right to its upstream oil and gas activities outside of court.
“It doesn’t serve any purpose and will only add to confusion and uncertainty to the industry,” he said while pointing out that this will also cause Sarawakians to suffer as employment and business opportunities will be affected.
Last month, Petronas filed an application to seek a declaration from the Federal Court on matters pertaining to the PDA and its position on the regulatory controls of upstream activities in Sarawak.
The national oil and gas company is seeking a declaration that the PDA was duly enacted by the Parliament and stated that Petronas is the exclusive regulatory authority for the upstream industry throughout the country.
Petronas is also seeking a declaration that the OMO was repealed by the PDA and hence Sarawak’s own oil and gas company, Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), which will serve as the regulator of oil and gas activities in Sarawak based on OMO, is not valid.