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Sarawak Assembly approves high-level task force to discuss issues under Malaysia Agreement


Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (left) showing his budget speech to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah at the State Legislative Assembly in Kuching. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (left) showing his budget speech to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah at the State Legislative Assembly in Kuching. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

KUCHING: The Sarawak Legislative Assembly has unanimously approved a resolution mandating the state government to form a high-level special task force to negotiate with the Federal Government and resolve outstanding issues on Sarawak's rights under the Malaysia Agreement.
 
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said although agreement had been reached on some issues since 2015, other constitutional matters relating to oil mining rights and territorial waters had yet to be satisfactorily resolved.
On oil mining rights, he said Sarawak had made sacrifices in the national interest by granting Petronas control and benefits from petroleum and natural resources in the state's continental shelf and on land.
 
"Consequently, Petronas has been able to grant concessions for exploration and production of oil and gas to many companies such as Petronas Carigali, Nippon Oil, Shell, Murphy Oil and Mubadala Oil and Gas.
 
"Sarawakian companies have yet to be involved in any development and production of oil and gas in the continental shelf," he said when tabling a motion to set up the task force in the state assembly on Thursday.
 
Uggah said the state government wanted all parties involved in oil and gas exploration in Sarawak, including Petronas, to comply with relevant state laws such as the Oil Mining Ordinance, which regulates onshore and offshore oil mining, and the state Land Code.
 
He said since Petronas and its production sharing contractors had not obtained exploration or mining leases in accordance with the Oil Mining Ordinance and no permit to occupy state land under the Land Code, Petronas must regularise its activities to comply with state laws. 
 
He added that the state government wanted to reach an amicable solution to accommodate both state and Federal interests with due recognition of the state's rights over its continental shelf and natural resources.
 
"The state government will not jeopardise Petronas' business or economic interests in Sarawak or act against national interests. Further, the state government at this stage does not wish to resort to the courts to resolve such issues," Uggah said.
 
He also said the Territorial Sea Act, which was passed by Parliament in 2012 without consulting the state government, adversely affected Sarawak's rights by altering the state's territorial waters from 12 to three nautical miles, while the Federal Government claimed a breadth of up to 12 nautical miles.
 
"It is unconstitutional for the Federal Government to claim rights over the seabed and subsoil which are part of state land by claiming sovereignty over it under international law through enacting the Territorial Sea Act," he said.
 
Uggah said the state government wanted these issues to be resolved amicably without resorting to legal action so as not to jeopardise the Federation's unity and good relationship between Sarawak and the Federal Government.
 
He also said the state was now in a stronger negotiating position after sending a research team to London in June to obtain relevant documents from the British National Archives.
 
Uggah called on the Federal Government to establish a task force corresponding to the state's to conclude the negotiations on Sarawak's rights.
 
He added that the passing of the motion should not be misinterpreted to mean that Sarawak was willing to jeopardise Malaysia's existence as a nation.
 
"We respect and honour the decision of our past leaders for our state to be part of Malaysia and we will always remain in Malaysia. Let there be no doubt about this fact," he said.
   

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