KUALA LUMPUR, Mac 2: PAS has ridiculed a gag order slapped on Umno members over the Kelantan oil royalty issue, pointing out that if Umno was confident it was doing the right thing, it should not fear discussion or debate over the controversial matter.
“This clearly show Umno is scared and worried that if there is open discussion and intellectual discourse, more and more of its members will understand what the issues are really about,” PAS vice president Mahfuz Omar told Harakahdaily.
“They will realize how cruel the Umno-BN federal government has been in oppressing the development of the Kelantan people by not paying them money that is rightfully theirs.”
Three Umno assemblymen voted with PAS
Mahfuz’s counterpart at Umno, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had announced the gag order on Tuesday, a day after the PAS-led Kelantan state government had voted to take the federal government and national oil Petronas to court for non-payment of contracted royalty.
“The party’s supreme council has already given its clear stand. If the members do not fully understand the issue, they can use existing channels to seek explanations,” Hishammuddin told reporters.
“Making sensational statements that can destroy the party’s image is, even in the past, something that we do not allow.”
Not only was he referring to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Umno’s respected veteran leader who has defied his party by defending Kelantan’s right to receive the cash payments, but also to three of the six Umno state assemblymen who had voted alongside PAS in Monday’s landmark resolution.
Less for money for corruption if they paid
Backed by Razaleigh, a former Finance Minister and founder chairman of Petronas, as well as a host of other legal experts, PAS has demanded that Umno honors the Petroleum Development Act 1974 and an agreement Kelantan signed with the federal government in 1975.
In these agreements, it was stipulated that Kelantan – like all other oil contributing states in the country – was entitled to receive cash payments worth 5 percent of the total oil produced in its territory.
“Legally and morally we are in the right. It is Umno which is trying to renege on the agreements because they are afraid if they pay the money, then the development of Kelantan can finally take off and they may never be able to regain control of the state government again,” Mahfuz said.
“Then there is the evergreen issue of corruption. If they paid us the money, there would be less for them to throw around and siphon away in the form of mega-projects.”