The response from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said it all. There was indeed an outstanding loan due to the federal government amounting to RM2.38 bil, being part of the normal financial arrangement between state governments and Putrajaya to finance projects under the concurrent list.
Under the concurrent list of the Malaysian Constitution, both federal and state governments could be responsible for such projects, which include water supply, sewerage, industrial estates, housing and agriculture.
The above statement was issued in response to Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng’s outrage that Sarawak must pay its RM2.5bil loan to the federal government before claiming its share of RM2.7 mil in tourism tax.
The statement from the CMO further indicated it was a long-term loan and adequately serviced every year when the annual repayment falls due. In fact, it has been reported by the Auditor General that Sarawak is one of the states that has no outstanding arrears.
The harsh response by Lim is actually uncalled for as the federal loan is a separate matter from the Sarawak rights issues.
It is just like a bank telling a house owner to pay up his 30-year housing loan fully, whether it has fallen due or not, otherwise any other credit balance belonging to the owner will not be released.
Such a response from a Finance Minister is too emotional and amateurish, even though he has apparently been agitated by Sarawak’s growing demand for its rights under MA63 and the Malaysian Constitution.
Well, don’t blame those growing voices from Sarawak. After all it is their right over their resources as acknowledged by both the PH and the previous BN government. And don’t forget the election manifesto of both parties were to return those Sarawak rights to its rightful owner.
I have already mentioned in an earlier article how much Sarawak has been shortchanged, considering that the state has been receiving only between RM1.42 bil and RM2.52 bil annually depending on oil price levels, compared with between RM5.68 and RM10.08 bil that we should be receiving every year based on a royalty of 20%.
Comparing the above shortchange with the outstanding federal loan of RM2.38 bil owed by Sarawak, one should be able to understand the magnitude of the issue.
Instead Lim looked confused and only managed to mumble some irrelevant and miniscule amounts to the press. Sarawakians are not that stupid or as confused as Lim.
Sarawak is aware now that it has a strong legal position to claim rights over oil and gas within its territory, including offshore petroleum resources. Sarawak’s offshore resources have been determined as far back as 1954 by the colonial government’s Queen’s Order in Council made on June 24 1954 which included the area of continental shelf offshore Sarawak where all the oil and gas fields are now located.
The federal government had tried to annex this area by passing the Continental Shelf Act 1966 and Petroleum Mining Act 1966, but it failed to extend it to Sarawak upon resistance from the Sarawak government at that time.
The federal government, nevertheless, had annexed this area by virtue of Proclamation of Emergency 1969. But these effects have lapsed with the lifting of the Emergency Ordinance in 2011, so now these offshore petroleum resources revert back to Sarawak.
Other lesser known transgressions were committed by the federal government over the years since the formation of Malaysia. In this connection, the Malayan government agreed at that time to grant the Borneo states additional legislative and executive powers and some sources of revenues.
Special grants were given under the Tenth Schedules of the Federal Constitution, to be reviewed every five years, together with some other revenues like import and excise duties on petroleum products, etc. But if these measures were designed to enable the Borneo states to achieve parity or equality with Malaya, they were not complied with and the Borneo states did not have these assigned revenues.
The special grant had not been reviewed since 1969, and the Borneo sates are stuck with the outdated amount decided pre 1974.
With the above, in particular Sarawak’s claims over it petroleum resources, the federal government has been collecting petroleum revenue illegally from Sarawak’s territory and Petronas will be running foul of state laws, unless it applies for and is granted the necessary operating licences by Sarawak under the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958. – DAH IKHWAN