Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Malaysia's 'Secret' Handover Of Oil Blocks To Brunei Unconstitutional?

Sabahans livid over loss of oil blocks

The chickens have come home to roost in the growing controversy over Malaysia's 'secret' handover of offshore oil blocks L and M to Brunei last March, during the tenure of premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The opposition in Sabah has charged that the handover was done without complying with Article 2 of the federal constitution, and wants it to be scrapped immediately.

PKR vice-president Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan pointed out that, under Article 2, no alterations can be made to the borders of a state without the express approval of the state assembly concerned by appropriate legislation, and without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.

“There is no record that the Sabah state assembly passed any law giving its seal of approval to the handover. Any such law would also need the consent of the governor,” he said.

Moreover, the 1976 oil agreement between Sabah and Petronas does not give the latter the authority via the Malaysian government to cede Sabah territory to a foreign country.

“Land remains a state matter under the federal constitution notwithstanding the 1976 oil agreement,” said Jeffrey.

The handover became public knowledge after an oil company announced that Petronas had terminated its oil contract involving the two blocks.

Abdullah had not publicly disclosed the handover in March last year, but had only claimed then that Brunei had dropped its claim to Limbang in Sarawak. The Brunei government had immediately disputed this.

Jeffrey castigated the government for being a willing party to the handover at a time when it was not willing to consider even a modest increase in the “measly 5 percent oil royalty to (Sabah)”.

He said he sees no reason why the government could not have surrendered the oil blocks back to Sabah by an amendment to the oil agreement.

Instead, noted Jeffrey, Putrajaya was more willing to hand over the oil blocks - even illegally under “suspicions circumstances” - to Brunei, while Abdullah had engineered the handover just three weeks before he stepped down as prime minister.

“He should not have been a party to the handover since he was in the process of stepping down. He should have left it to his successor, Najib (Abdul Razak), to sort out the border disagreements with Brunei so that suspicions would not be aroused. Why the great hurry?”

While stressing that he did not want to cast aspersions on Abdullah's character, Jeffrey demanded that the former premier should disclose any interest he may have had in the handover.

“It is not enough that we be asked to give him the benefit of the doubt on the handover - this is not a question of trust but of procedure.”

Abdullah has claimed that the oil blocks are now shared by Malaysia and Brunei under a territorial and commercial deal inked on March 16 last year, but Wisma Putra has since acknowledged that Brunei has sovereignty over the two areas.

'Abrogate handover'

Since Brunei and Malaysia had been bogged down in border disagreements for decades, Jeffrey said “there is no reason why they could not have waited a little while longer while everything was done properly and legally in accordance with the federal constitution”.

He urged a halt to oil exploration and production activities in blocks L and M, now re-designated CA1 and CA2, pending resolution of the final status.

An emergency meeting of PKR's Sabah-Sarawak Consultative Committee will be called to determine a response, he said, hinting that a royal commission of inquiry on the handover may be a first step, followed by a referendum.

“Petronas, other oil companies and Brunei can't hang on to any proceeds and revenue from oil blocks L and M. The Sabah government has an equal claim to any revenue. Even royalties alone work out to nearly RM20 billion by conservative estimates at today's prices.”

He said the government cannot claim that the Sabah and Sarawak governments had been briefed on the handover and consulted accordingly.

“Even if the respective chief ministers were indeed briefed and consulted, it's not up to them to do what they like on the handover. There is still the need to comply with the federal constitution on the matter.”

Asked how he sees the way forward, since the deed is done, Jeffrey reiterated that the handover must be abrogated, and both the Sabah and Sarawak governments should be brought into renewed negotiations with the Brunei government.

He favours Petronas handing back the two oil blocks to Sabah for the state to consider “joint sovereignty” with Brunei, adding that this can be done if the Sarawak government can be persuaded to consider “joint sovereignty” over Limbang Division with Brunei.

'High treason'

Jeffrey's remarks have struck a chord with other opposition leaders including Sabah Progressive Party president Yong Teck Lee and Common Interest Group Malaysia deputy chair Daniel John Jambun.

Daniel said he is not surprised by the handover of the two oil blocks by Malaysia, and pledged to pursue the issue until justice is done to Sabah.

“This not the first time that the government has run foul of the federal constitution. The issuance of MyKad to illegal immigrants, refugees and other foreigners in Sabah is also being done without the approval of the state government,” he claimed.

He sees parallels, up to a point, between the handover of the oil blocks and the conversion of Labuan to a federal territory in 1984. In the case of Labuan, he said everything was done legally except that the people were not consulted.

“Even then it led to the downfall of the Berjaya government under Harris Salleh,” he said, predicting a similar fate for the current Umno-led Sabah government.

Yong, in dramatic vein, said Abdullah has committed “high treason” by handing over the oil blocks to Brunei without Sabah's approval.

“The government should make public the handover agreement. It should also publish the map of Sabah showing its land and maritime boundaries,” he told a press conference yesterday.

He insisted that the government must make good the loss that Sabah has suffered by the handover, and that the losses should be properly quantified and recorded.

“If we don't take action on the handover, a dangerous precedent would have been established. What is there to prevent the federal government from selling chunks of Sabah in future to foreigners?” he asked rhetorically.


Salak said...

What it basically means is that any oil Company associated with Malaysia and disenchanted with how things are done can take legal action.

Petronas itself, pointed out one academic is an "illegal" entity! Haram!

Malaysia's Judiciary? Your guess is as good as mine. When rights and contracts are not enforceable, we're headed for big trouble. As in Sibu, we're dealing with bad gangsters and bandits!

What can we expect? The sky may fall down on us. If Malaysia's debt to GDP ratio is headed to 70% in 2015 (Quah, MKini) we're in big shit. Total debt public/private may tear the roof and that's not "Greek", it's plain language.

What will happen? Fire sale and Lelong! All GLC's and all cronies companies will be ripe for the picking. Who will pick? Take a good guess of the locals! The foreigners, of course, will sapu all, what!!!

So who are traitors?!!! :(

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