Kota Kinabalu August 23, 2012: The State Government should take the golden opportunity to demand and sign a new and better oil agreement with Petronas and the Federal Government, said Star Sabah Chairman, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
Responding to the statement by the Chief Minister that the State's five per cent petroleum royalty review issue was open for amicable discussions with the Federal Government, he said: "This is the most opportune time to not only seek a review but to demand and negotiate a new deal for Sabah's oil and gas resources for the benefit of Sabah and its future.
"It cannot be denied that any increase in the oil revenue, including the offer of 20 per cent by Pakatan Rakyat, is definitely for the benefit of Sabah and Sabahans," said Dr Jeffrey.
The oil agreement is nearly four decades old and a new oil deal is certainly needed for the future of Sabah, he said, adding that the so-called review would also test the sincerity of the Federal Government and Sabah leaders as well as the extent of the Federal-State relationship.
In addition, he said it was important to realise that the seat of government in Putrajaya is now likely to be decided by Sabah and Sarawak.
"Therefore, Sabah and Sarawak leaders must leverage on their role as king-makers.
"Sabah and Sarawak leaders must ensure that the rights and interests of Sabah and Sarawak come first. And, if the Federal Government does not agree to increase the share of oil revenue for Sabah and Sarawak, the Sabah and Sarawak leaders, as king-makers, should just change the Federal Government," he said.
Dr Jeffrey said the State Government should also adopt a holistic approach to the old oil agreement in seeking a new deal.
"Many are of the opinion that the existing oil agreement is unconstitutional and invalid because it is not only unfair but infringes on a fundamental state right.
"They also question the authority and the manner of the then Chief Minister in signing away the oil rights without approval from the State Legislative Assembly. The terms of the agreement are not only lopsided but grossly unfair to the oil-producing states," he said.
In this respect, Dr Jeffrey said, the State Government needs to better understand the existing oil agreement.
Firstly, the current five per cent was a cash payment payable by Petronas under Section 4 of the Petroleum Development Act, 1974 in return for the ownership and the rights, powers, liberties and privileges of the oil and gas resources vested to Petronas by the State and is not royalty at all, he said.
"Furthermore, Section 4 provides that the cash payment is to be agreed between the parties, and not imposed upon.
"There was unlikely to have been any negotiations in 1976 for the amount of the cash payment. If it had been properly negotiated, it would not have ended up at a mere five per cent for transfer of ownership of the oil and gas resources to Petronas.
"In fact, the then Chief Minster had recently stated that the State was forced to accept the five per cent cash payment," he said.
Secondly, he said very few people know that in fact under Clause 4 of the 1976 agreement that was signed eight days after the Double Six Tragedy, the State Government was also asked to agree to waive or to reject Sabah's rights to royalties on the oil and gas resources.
"Therefore, in the new deal, the Chief Minister should seek the restoration of Sabah's rights to impose oil royalties which are provided under the State List of the Federal Constitution and Section 24 of the Land Ordinance, Sabah Cap. 68," he said.
Thirdly, as explained, the current five per cent oil revenue receivable by the State was cash payment under Section 4 of the Petroleum Development Act and nothing to do with royalties.
In a video recording done in 1975, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was then Minister of Finance and President of Petronas, explained that royalty entitlement of the states was 12 per cent for up to three miles from the shoreline, and with the Federal Government getting 10 per cent for up to 10 miles and eight per cent to the Federal Government for up to the international boundary, he said.
Assuming that this was implemented, Sabah would have got or received a total of at least 17 per cent in oil revenue, with 12 per cent in royalties and five per cent cash payment.
"It is Star's view that Sabah should receive at least 30 per cent in royalties because Sabah's boundary is the same as the international boundary as Sabah gained independence on Aug 31, 1963, thereby establishing its international boundary as a nation.
"This means Malaysia's international boundary coincides with Sabah's international boundary," he said.
As part of Star Sabah's causes and aspirations for Sabah, Star was seeking an increase of the oil revenue to 50 per cent nett revenue excluding royalties which are payable even if the ownership is transferred to Petronas.
"It is set out in Star's Petroleum Masterplan which is comprehensive and covers a wide range of policies for Sabah's oil and gas beneficial to Sabah and Sabahans.
"It is also Star's view that Sabah's or Sarawak's oil rights cannot be transferred as it belongs to the states, but can only be leased or assigned for a specific period," he said.
Dr Jeffrey said an increase from five per cent to 50 per cent would bring in an additional amount of at least about RM7 billion a year for Sabah.
"It will definitely help Sabahans and alleviate if not eliminate poverty totally in Sabah.
"The additional RM7 billion will be proof that the Federal and State governments are sincere in resolving the oil issue and talk of asking for a review is not just mere election gimmick to hoodwink the voters in Sabah in the coming general election.
"Sabah BN should impose their political will and secure a new oil deal for the future and benefit of Sabahans and not pay mere lip service and play the issue up as an election gimmick.
"And if the Federal Government and Petronas do not agree to a new deal for Sabah and Sarawak, then Sabah and Sarawak should stand united and change the Federal Government for the sake of Sabahans and Sarawakians alike," he said.