KUCHING: The federal government must resolve the oil and gas disputes with Sabah and Sarawak to avert a larger and more complicated crisis, said constitutional law expert Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.
“I know this is a bone of contention. My view is that in a federal system of government, the federal government should be open to discussion and to (constitutional) amendment.
“We need to evolve on issues pertaining to petroleum, oil and oil fields which should be renegotiated. I sympathise with the complainants (Sabah and Sarawak) which often ask, ‘How can you (Malaya) just give us five percent?’
“But it needs a rewriting of the constitution, which is not impossible if Sabah and Sarawak are agreeable (to it) and the federal government can come around,” he said during a webinar held by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI) on Saturday (July 24).
Shad said the federal government must take the matter seriously and learn from conflicts in other countries which stemmed from disputes.
“As a West Malaysian, I urge the (federal) government to look at this matter. We must learn from ill experiences of other countries.
“Let’s learn from what happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh; let’s learn from Sudan — its north and south; let’s learn from the conflicts of Biafra and Nigeria. Let’s not make the same mistake,” he said.
He recalled that when Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was drafted, petroleum and oil fields were not matters of much concern as they are today.
“In the Ninth Schedule, the Federal List, Item 8(j) says oil and oil fields, petroleum produces and mines are in federal hands.
“Sabah and Sarawak are entitled to duties on these, permits and licence fees, but oil and oil fields are in federal hands.
“I think the lawyers for Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 could have argued this better,” he said.