Taib Mahmud was the federal-level Primary Industries Minister in charge of oil and gas when the Petroleum Development Act 1974 was passed by Parliament.
Free Malaysia Today
KUCHING: Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s turnaround on the oil royalty issue after 31 years in power and the fact that he preferred “private” and “amicable discussions” with the federal government have raised more questions.
Uppermost on the list is whether Taib and his predecessor and uncle, Abdul Rahman Yakub, had knowingly “surrendered” Sarawak’s rights over oil and gas to the federal government.
Sarawakians who have read Taib’s biography – “A Soul You Can See” – written by Douglas Bullis and who remember their history, would recall that Taib was the federal-level Primary Industries Minister who was in charge of the nation’s oil and gas resources.
This being the case, was Taib responsible for the lopsided oil agreement and the Petroleum Development Act passed in Parliament in 1974?
The Act was passed following a confrontation between Opec (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and oil companies over oil price policies in 1973.
Expounding on the 1973 “crisis”, Taib was quoted by Bullis as saying: “By 1973 I realised Malaysia and the oil companies were headed for a confrontation over their purchase price policies.
“There was too much take and too little give, and Malaysia’s people have an ethic based on balance,” Taib had said in page 88 of the book.
“Eventually I came up with the idea that we should base Malaysia’s oil concession policy on shared production agreements.
“Naturally I was snubbed by oil companies who claimed the Malaysian government was moving towards nationalisation.”
Bullis said that it was obvious that Malaysia’s post-1974 policy on taking control of Malaysia’s petroleum interests from oil companies was largely Taib’s works.
It is well known in Sabah that its then chief minister Mustapha Harun and his successor Fuad (Donald) Stephens refused to sign the oil agreement giving 5% of oil royalty to Sabah, but Sarawak under Abdul Rahman was said to be “too willing” and signed the agreement.
But the question is: Did the nephew and the uncle “surrender” Sarawak’s rights over oil and gas to the federal government in order to please the then prime minister Abdul Razak in return for political and financial support?
Sarawak was at that time in turmoil following the sacking of its chief minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan in 1966.
At the time there were incessant allegations by the Parti Pesaka anak Sarawak president Temenggong Jugah anak Barieng that the Ibans were shabbily treated by Abdul Rahman and Taib.
Abdul Rahman was also facing an “internal rebellion” against his leadership from within Pesaka, which had by then (in 1973) merged with Parti Bumiputera to form Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).
At the point of signing the oil agreement, Sarawak was said to be politically unstable and needed the support of the federal government.