The antics of Sabah and Sarawak leaders in oil royalty issue

Oil Royalty

The Ant Daily

ANALYSIS: Many find it amusing, even frustrating sometimes, to see the way the leaders in Sabah and Sarawak tackle the issue of oil royalty for the two states.

It is a given that everybody in the two states wants the royalty to be increased from the current 5% to at least 20%. Yet, this issue has dragged on for so many years with no solution in sight.

Now, even leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional in the two states are openly clamouring for it. After their empty talk of the past, one can only hope that it is not just another political posturing to serve their own vested interests.

For the record, during the last general election campaign in 2013, the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat had pledged to give Sabah and Sarawak 20% royalty each if they won federal power.

Ironically, these same BN leaders had then belittled Pakatan’s royalty promise without putting up any concrete proposals of their own.

Now these leaders want exactly that figure — 20% oil royalty from BN (read Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak). Can’t they be more original by asking for more than the 20% pledged by Pakatan?

Why the sudden change of tune by these BN leaders? Are they sincere in fighting for the people’s interests or are they jumping on the bandwagon to get a piece of the pie for themselves?

In Sarawak, new Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said his government would put up a formal request to the federal government to increase its share of the oil royalty to 20%.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman followed up with a rather non-committal statement that his government is open to good views that are put up in a responsible manner.

The onus is really on these leaders from Sabah and Sarawak to come up with concrete plans that are politically correct to get their bosses in Putrajaya to accede to the people’s demands. The time for rhetoric in the media is well past.

There is a joke likening leaders in Sabah to children throwing tantrums but who are not guaranteed of getting what they want.

This is understandable in the absence of coordinated action from the top leaders. Last week, three Kadazandusun-based parties in BN — PBS, Upko and PBRS – ordered only their Youth leaders to pledge support for Adenan’s call.

On Wednesday, as a follow-up to the trio’s statement, PBS proposed the setting up of a state-level BN committee to pursue the matter with the federal government.

PBS information chief Jahid Jahim rightly observed that Sabahans now have a solid common voice in wanting an increase of its oil royalty.

But why limit such a committee to the BN?

For sure, an all-party committee that cuts across political boundaries would be more representative of the people’s voice and carry more weight in its negotiations with the federal government.

Sabah and Sarawak leaders should have learnt from the lessons of the past and come up with better strategies to get what they want from a recalcitrant federal government.

As many have opined, the current federal power is the weakest in more than 50 years — they are sitting in Putrajaya at the mercy of Sabah and Sarawak parliamentarians!

The people of Sabah and Sarawak long to see a decisive move that would restore their rights to development.

The East Malaysians should re-enact what they did in 1962 and 1963 where all parties regrouped and came up with conditions and points of demands.

There was no BN or Perikatan then but there were already “ruling” and “opposition” parties with the latter speaking more loudly on state rights.

In a sense, they owe it to the loud voice that they now have the 20-Point and 18-Point memorandums to agreeing to form a new country called the Federation of Malaysia.

The points are etched in the annals of history, meant to be adhered to and not broken.

Sabah and Sarawak are the richest states in the federation in terms of natural resources — oil, gas, land, timber, water, seas, islands and even mountains and cultures — yet both sit at the bottom of the heap in national development.

It is time for leaders to take concrete action to give the people of Borneo what is rightfully theirs.

Unlike the voters, these leaders need not wait until the next general election to make their voice count.