Between right and wrong

Raja Petra Kamarudin

On Friday, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Dr Maximus Ongkili, said the federal government will always respect state rights and privileges, ‘whether those given to Sabah, Sarawak or former unfederated Malayan states’.

For those whom history was never their strong point, ‘unfederated Malay states’ here would mean Terengganu and Kelantan, amongst others.

Dr Ongkili said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah) had reiterated this assurance at the closing of the Merdeka Month celebration in Kuching last September.

“State rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution are pillars of the Malaysian nation. They shouldn’t therefore act as obstacles to national integration,”

he said when asked to comment on the ongoing hot debate on the issue in Sabah.

The issue exploded early last week when Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, M. Kayveas, urged the Sabah and Sarawak governments to take steps to review the 20-Point agreement and other rules and conditions agreed upon when Malaysia was formed in 1963.

Kayveas’ remark caused an uproar amongst Sabahans, many of whom spoke in defence of the Agreement. Dr Ongkili said that the issue was not to be debated publicly as it might be sensitive to citizens in relevant states who are passionate about such rights. Dr Ongkili then assured Malaysians,

“These rights and safeguards are pillars of the nation and pillars are always to be strengthened and not to be diluted.”

Hmm…interesting! Why then did the federal government in early 2000 break the agreement with the Terengganu State Government with regards to the 5% oil royalty that the state was entitled to?

In the mid-1970s, Parliament passed the Petroleum Development Act taking away the rights of all the states with regards to any oil and gas found in the respective states. Oil and gas are state resources and under the terms of the Federation all state resources belongs to the states. Oil and gas, however, were proclaimed as federal resources and no longer a state resource.

This is the first breach of the Federation agreement.

Then, a national corporation called Petronas was created to take over the management of all the oil and gas activities throughout Malaysia. All the states were then forced to sign an agreement with Petronas, handing over to the national petroleum company all their rights over oil and gas. Petronas, in turn, was to award each state that oil and gas was found in it a 5% royalty.

Instead of 100%, the states were now given only 5%.

Since this was an Act of Parliament the states could not do anything about it except to agree to sign the agreement, which they did so reluctantly.

The agreement, though forced down the throats of the states, was honoured for about 25 years. Then, in 2000, the federal government violated the agreement and withdrew the 5% royalty that Terengganu was entitled to. The Prime Minister then, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said that the federal government was not obligated to pay Terengganu the 5% royalty though there was such a thing as the Federation agreement, the Petroleum Development Act, and a legally binding agreement signed between Petronas and Terengganu.

In fact, just before they withdrew the 5% oil royalty, Petronas confirmed that such an agreement did exist and that it would honour the agreement to the spirit and to the letter. Then it just violated the agreement and the Act of Parliament and told Terengganu to go to hell.

Yes, the federal government has a marvellous track record of ‘honouring’ agreements it enters into with the states. Ever wonder why no state trusts the federal government anymore and why many feel the states would be better off not part of the federation. And we are not yet even touching on how, for more than a decade, they held back all development expenditure due to Kelantan State, which is the state’s entitlement according to the terms of the Federation.

Prophet Muhammad said that if anyone breaks his promise more than three times you are to have nothing to do with him. Now you know why states would rather not have anything to do with the federal government and why the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ call is very strong, as is the ‘Federal government stay out of Sabah’ cry.

The following day, it was reported that thieves stole two Boer goats owned by Pak Lah that were being housed in the Penang State Veterinary Department.

The pair of Australian Boer goats, which are worth about RM5,000, have been under the care of the Penang State Veterinary Department for some years now. A businessman gave them to Pak Lah as a present.

The Malaysian police are currently conducting a nationwide manhunt, or rather goathunt, and are checking on all abattoirs and breeding farms throughout Malaysia to trace the animals and, hopefully, apprehend the thieves.

There are many more serious crimes such as rape and murder of underage girls which the undermanned police force would be better off looking into. After all, incidences of goats, cows, chickens, even fish, being stolen are endemic all over Malaysia. Would ‘normal’ Malaysians get the same treatment if their goats go missing? Certainly the police would not mount an a la Bentong Kali or Botak Chin nationwide manhunt if the goats belonged to you and me and not to the Prime Minister.

What we now need to ask is, who was the businessman who gave the Prime Minister these RM5,000 worth of goats? Was the gift declared or was the present ‘under the table’? Did this businessman or any of his companies enjoy any government contracts, perks, licences, permits, etc., which would then mean these goats can be considered a bribe.

Finally, is Pak Lah paying the Penang State Veterinary Department for the upkeep of these goats, since they are his personal goats and not owned by Malaysia, and how much was the upkeep these last few years?

If the taxpayer is paying for the upkeep of Pak Lah’s goats then the Prime Minister has abused his authority and can be charged under the same law that Anwar Ibrahim was charged, whereby Pak Lah would then have to suffer the inconvenience of six years in the Sungai Buloh Prison.