Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kelantan lawmakers vote to take oil issue to court

KOTA BHARU, Mac 1: Kelantan lawmakers have approved a resolution demanding that national oil firm Petronas makes cash payment as royalty for all petroleum produced in the state’s territory, failing which the state government would take the case to court.

“We don’t think the six BN assemblymen will endorse the motion but PAS still has more than enough support to get the resolution passed in the state assembly,” Kelantan PAS leader Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah had earlier told Harakahdaily.

As it later transpired, all 38 PAS assemblymen but only 3 Umno ADUNs voted in favor of the motion, although the matter directly involved the interests of their state. The other three BN representatives abstained from voting.

In the 2008 election, PAS won 38 of the 45 seats in the Kelantan legislative assembly, while Pakatan Rakyat colleague PKR took one. Umno-BN won the remaining six seats.

The oil resolution was initially proposed by Pas assemblyman for Air Lanas Abdullah Yaakub and seconded by Omar Mohamad, PAS assemblyman for Perupuk.

Zulkifli Mamat, PAS assemblyman for Pulai Chondong, then requested that the resolution also included a specific demand to Petronas to make cash payments as stipulated by the Petroleum Development Act 1974, and also under an agreement signed between the national oil firm and the state government.

Money may be lost forever if no action is taken

The issue of oil royalty has long been a thorny issue in Kelantan, especially with the federal government quick to renege on agreements signed once the state government fell into opposition control.

The classic example was the abrupt manner in which former-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad ordered Petronas to stop paying oil royalty to Terengganu in 2000, after PAS wrested control of the state in 1999.

To replace the stipulated cash payments of five percent of all oil produced annually in the state, Mahathir had invented a new scheme called wang ehsan or compassionate fund. From this fund, Mahathir disbursed an arbitrary sum for financing development projects in the state. However, the scheme not only contravened the law, it also led to widespread corruption and abuse.

Under the wang ehsan scheme, Mahathir intentionally by-passed the PAS state government, channeling funds directly to federal agencies, which in turn used the money to invest in wasteful federal projects that did not benefit the ordinary Terengganu folk.

The Terengganu PAS government led by party president Hadi Awang took the federal government and Petronas to court but the case has been delayed until even now.

“They can delay the Kelantan case in the courts just as they did in Terengganu but the Kelantan government must still sue if Petronas does not pay,” Wan Rahim said.

“It must stand up for the Kelantan people and begin a formal action to recover justice and equity for them. It must try its best to deliver the people from the cruelty and oppression of this federal government, which does not know how to respect the laws of the land. Otherwise, the money may be forever lost to Kelantan.”

Sumber: Harakahdaily

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