KUCHING: New Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem is showing signs he will speak up on contentious issues and take a different stand from his predecessor.
In an interview with The Star, Adenan spoke assertively on the Malaysia Agreement, but even more surprising were his views on the oil royalty for Sarawak.
“I would like to have 20% royalty, sure,” he said, “but what was agreed before was 5% of gross. I will ask the Federal Government if they can accommodate us but let us be realistic”.
Adenan believed the Federal Government would respond positively.
“If there is a request from the state Barisan government to the Federal Government, I’m sure the Federal Government will consider it favourably,” the Chief Minister said.
The 5% oil and gas royalty rate is a common complaint by Sarawakians and Sabahans, usually talked of in the same breath as their relative lack of development.
It is also an issue that has played to the Opposition’s strengths, which has highlighted the natural wealth of the states that are poor in infrastructure.
Adenan spoke on the political aspect of the matter, saying: “This is a game played by the Opposition who want to be the champion of Sarawak’s autonomy. I am surprised that they’ve only realised this is the case,” he said.
“When Sarawak became part of Malaysia during the 1960s, our revenue was very small. There was not much oil production at that time. All our revenue came from Federal grants and so on. The Federal Government has been generous with us over the years.”
Asked if there was a sense of indebtedness to the Federal Government for its financial support, he said: “We must sink or swim together. When I’m in trouble you help me, when you are in trouble we help you. That is what the federation is about.”
On another matter, Adenan indicated his willingness to engage with stakeholders on the state’s policy on native customary rights (NCR) land, in particular its definition.
“I am calling all parties involved to go over this matter. I’m going to listen to different sources of opinion,” he said.
What constitutes NCR land has long been a point of dispute between the state government and land rights activists.
Figures like NCR lawyer Baru Bian, who is state PKR chairman, have called on the government to recognise pemakai menoa (communal land) and pulau galau (forest reserve) as NCR land.
According to Baru, this would be in line with a number of decisions by the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court affirming NCR over pemakai menoa and pulau galau.
The state government only recognises farmed land now.
Adenan also welcomed the proposal by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum on setting up a land tribunal or dedicated court to hear NCR cases.
“I would like to talk to him on the possibility of setting up a special court and what his ideas are to go about it. We already have native courts, maybe they are not sufficient to deal with this matter.
“This is a special field and we need people who are experts in this area,” he said, adding that the Chief Judge’s suggestion merited serious consideration.
Malanjum had made the proposal during the opening of the legal year here in January.
He had noted that the disposal of NCR land cases was the toughest challenge faced by the courts in Sarawak and Sabah.
Adenan's first week in office
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