Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

By Dr Navin C Naidu

‘5pc payment was S’wak’s idea, says Razaleigh’, screamed a story-line in Sabah-based Daily Express yesterday.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the founding chairman and chief executive of Petronas, reportedly said that the establishment of the national oil company was Sarawak’s idea, as well as the five per cent payment as income from Petronas to Sarawak that was not considered royalty, and that another five per cent would be granted from Petronas to the federal government.

Razaleigh said it was Datuk Patinggi Abdul Rahman Ya’kub who mooted the Petronas idea in his capacity as chief minister of Sarawak at that material time.

The immediate reaction that hit me between the eyes was why he would moot such an idea when most of the profits will inure to the federal government’s benefit and advantage? Is Razaleigh saying, or insinuating, that Abdul Rahman knowingly, willingly and voluntarily put Sarawak second and the federal government first?

That is wholly doubtful and totally inconsistent with the idea of entering the Federation of Malaysia which most assuredly Abdul Rahman was very well aware of concerning the special safeguards for Sarawak and Sabah.

At this juncture, Sarawakians today must always realise and never forget that oil and gas come out of their land and soil, and therefore smacks of native land with the corresponding native law and customary law overriding all other legal and constitutional considerations as espoused in Article 160 Federal Constitution (FC).

That is incontrovertible. Native law and custom are strong and rock solid, potent and powerfully authoritative that even a proclamation of emergency that affects native law and custom has no validity under Article 150(6A) FC.

So, the idea of giving away Sarawak’s rights to oil and gas, other fundamental freedoms and guarantees must be ascertained and verified no matter who chooses to expose, disclose and reveal the past.

The crux of the matter coming in the heels of Razaleigh’s press statements, as reported, is that Tun Mustapha Harun, Tun Fuad Stephens and Abdul Rahman are no longer with us to assist in confirming or refuting this revelation.

If challenged to prove and evidence his statements he could very well take refuge in Article 43(6) FC which requires all ministers to take an oath of secrecy, and therefore running afoul of the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) with up to a seven-year jail term for anyone who discloses a classified document. But political observers say this law can be instrumental in covering up scandals and abuses of power.

Be that as it may, is Razaleigh in a position to evidence documents in the form of letters, memos, telexes, faxes, and also prove the availability of oral discussions to substantiate his claims to the Daily Express today?

The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly’s Hansard may be a good starting point to verify fact from fiction, truth from untruth and conjecture.

Legislative deliberations after all are used in a court of law to identify the intent of a particular piece of legislation when statutory interpretation becomes awkward. Here if indeed the legislative assembly agreed to the five per cent — not 25 or 40 per cent — the truth will be there for all Sarawakians to check, recheck and cross-check.

Razaleigh’s statements, as reported, and still unsubstantiated, have the potential to cause doubt, uncertainty and confusion in the minds of right-thinking Sarawakians who may be witnessing an open season for finger-pointing and casting aspersions on those who held power in government and are no longer with us to defend themselves.

So, why did Razaleigh choose to say whatever he reportedly said now? Does he have a hidden agenda?

Does he want to come clean? Does he want to prove that the federal government is not to be blamed for most of Sarawak’s petroleum products’ income heading westward to Putrajaya’s coffers?

Is he an apologist, or is he a protagonist? Is he seeking political leverage? Is he jousting and jostling for a political appointment?

The next few weeks may reveal more. But in the meantime, we have to assimilate all this information and sieve out the truth and winnow the fiction.

There is a strong clue in Razaleigh’s statement, as reported, that Sabah’s Tun Mustapha refused the five per cent pittance for Sabah while the federal government gets the rest and the best.

If Tun Mustapha’s stand, as reported, is true why would Sarawak not go along with its Borneo Territory partner because they both had a common cause in the formation of and inclusion into Malaysia?

Razaleigh reportedly said in that press statement that “States should not interfere in oil matters, so such suggestion that the oil belongs to the State and so on should not have arisen. It should not have arisen but still it is brought up, because of politics.”

The blatant reason is there — politics. Oil is politics — Razaleigh says so, but he throws in the State’s role as if Sabah and Sarawak were conceived in the womb of statehood.

The phrase ‘Borneo Territory’ in the foundational documents seems to convey no enthusiasm for geographical, economic and political autonomy with the power brokers?

Oil, gas, mineral ores and timber in Sabah and Sarawak are physically found and stipulated as ‘native reservations’ in List II, State List of the Ninth Schedule, FC.

Native reservations belie pemakai menua, temuda, and pulau now codified as Native Territorial Doman in perpetuity following the Federal Court’s abortion in the Tuai Rumah Nyutan case.

Razaleigh could also be pointing to the fact that the recent case involving Petronas’ agreement to pay the SST did not include the issue of oil royalty and other bygone promises and assurances without legislative fiat.

Whatever his reasons for saying whatever he reportedly said, he has caused disaffection and unnecessary public concern that will most certainly require verification and confirmation to avoid libel and slander suits. After all, lies have speed, but truth has endurance.