It’s high time for KL to give Sabah more
By Datuk Dr Herman Luping
SABAH leaders are determined to present the state’s interests to the federal government. This is good and will help strengthen Sabah BN’s hold in the state now and in the future.
Recently, Sabah BN leaders met the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and among the issues raised with him was the illegal immigrants situation in Sabah, Sabah’s representation in the federal civil service, at the federal cabinet level, and the question of the oil revenue.
The request for an increase in Sabah’s oil revenue is an interesting matter and it would be great if the federal government would give this matter an open and due attention. Sabah at the moment receives five per cent of crude oil produced and sold. Translated into financial terms, Sabah gets approximately RM100 million a year. It is believed that Petronas’ income annually is about US$40 billion.
This is not the first time that Sabah leaders have asked for the oil revenue to be increased. For it has been raised before. Indeed, even before the state government agreed to sign on the dotted line of the oil agreement in the early 70s, Sabah leaders had argued for a better deal on the oil issue.
The Usno-Alliance government under the late Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun lost power and was replaced by the Berjaya Party government in 1976, partly because of Tun Mustapha’s refusal to sign the oil agreement, giving the state only five per cent of crude oil produced and sold. The Usno-Alliance government wanted at least 30 per cent.
The federal government, under the late Tun Abdul Razak, was visibly seen to support the creation of the new political party Berjaya, to topple the Mustapha government. Sabah leaders opposed to Tun Mustapha’s governance took up the challenge asked by the Prime Minister and the birth of Berjaya Party became part of the history of the state. It is also part of the history of this state when Sabah signed the oil agreement.
I remember attending a meeting in Miri in late 1974 where the former Chief Minister of Sarawak Tun Datuk Patinggi Abdul Rahman Yacob and other Sarawak leaders, met Tun Mustapha. Tun Mustapha was accompanied by his deputy, the late Tun Said Keruak, Datuk Habib, and Datuk Harris Salleh (himself was to be Sabah chief minister later). I was in the entourage. The issue was for a concerted action from both states to request for a 30 per cent share of crude price obtained.
Malaysia’s oil company, then known as Petromina, was under the chairmanship of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Through him, the federal government was only prepared to give the three oil producing states (Sarawak, Sabah and Terengganu) five per cent. The other two states soon ‘capitulated’ — leaving Tun Mustapha and Sabah alone to fight the ‘oil cause’. For he insisted that the state should get 30 per cent. And as I said, his removal and the defeat of the Usno are now history. The moral of this story of course, is that one cannot fight the federal government.
The oil issue was also part of the PBS manifesto in 1985: that if the PBS won the election it would renegotiate the oil percentage given to the state. PBS won but just by the skin of its teeth. It was too weak and because of defection by three of its assemblymen, PBS president Datuk Seri Pairin Kitingan had to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly for another election in 1986.
The issue of the oil percentage was momentarily shelved for the PBS government found itself fighting for the right to rule the state. The PBS government was not a member of the BN government and was in opposition.
In the prelude to the 1994 election, the PBS who was eventually accepted into the BN fold withdrew and joined forces with the proposed Gagasan Rakyat of Tengku Razaleigh (Semangat 46) and Lim Kit Siang (DAP). One of the issues agreed with the Gagasan Rakyat was the increase of the five per cent agreement to 30 per cent. But then, as history tells us, Gagasan Rakyat did not win the election.
Since then there have been muted calls by leaders for the increase of the oil payment for the State but there has been no reply from the federal government.
The issue is again raised. And it seems that it is opportune and timely that this matter be dealt with now.
To begin with, Sabah’s capacity to earn revenue is getting less. The state’s then economic mainstay, timber, is no longer available. And if the figure given to us in the press by SAPP’s leader, Datuk Seri Tham Nyip Tsen is correct, that the state stands to lose a colossal RM300 million annually to the federal government for the trans-shipment of our crude palm oil by the payment to West Malaysian ports; it is no wonder that Sabah is getting less and less revenue and in the process, getting poorer. This issue raised by Tham needs to be addressed.
But the main point is that Petronas has become considerably richer since its inception and has become the richest government corporation today. As we pointed out earlier, its income from its upstream and downstream ventures is in the billions every year, Petronas can therefore afford to increase the state’s share of this income bonanza. The Petronas Towers stand proudly in the heart of the nation’s capital, a symbol of economic strength of the country. And if we may say so, part of that symbol is Sabah’s contribution.
It is not likely that Sabah Malaysians would cause a ‘revolution’ to get an increase of the oil revenue. For such action would be a retrograde step in the wrong direction. We are not emulating the action taken by the Acehnese in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, where thousands of lives were lost because of their fight to get a better deal from the Indonesian government. In the end, the Acehnese got what they wanted though, 30 per cent. But going to war is not the Malaysian way.
Petronas has prospered and is continuing to prosper. And indirectly, Petronas made it possible for Malaysia to send one of us to the International Space Station at a cost of several million ringgit. We can now boast of having an ‘astronaut’ in our midst.
Meanwhile, though, it is also high time that the Prime Minister should consider the request to increase the oil percentage for the state.
Andrew Ong | Apr 25, 08 1:21pm Malaysiakini
Glaring socio-economic inequalities between Sabah and the rest of Malaysia has former deputy chief minister Tham Nyip Shen pondering aloud:
Does the federal government still want Sabah as a part of Malaysia?.
This was the question he posed during a forum titled “Mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan open forum” in Kuala Lumpur today. The event was jointly organised by the Centre for Public Policy Studies and the Wawasan Open University.
Tham, who is currently the science and information technology advisor to the Sabah Chief Minister showed slides after slides of compiled official figures highlighting the vast disparities in many areas faced by Sabahans.
“In 1990, we had just as many living under the poverty line in Sabah as in Kelantan at 30 percent. Their figures had dropped to 10.3 percent in 2004 while ours were at 23 percent,” he said.
Tham highlighted how Sabah consistently had the lowest literacy rate in the country.
He also pointed out that between 1995 and 2005, the number of teachers in partially government-aided schools had remained almost stagnant despite an increase in students.
Alarmingly, Sabah also had the lowest number of skilled health workers conducting deliveries of babies, he said.
Much of these problems are attributed to the fact that there are a large number of non-citizens in the state. According to figures obtained by the Statistics Department in 2005, 24.8 percent of Sabah’s population consist of non-citizens.
“Why the federal government allow this to happen, I really don’t know. Does the central government still want Sabah or not. Very soon, the non citizens will outnumber locals,” he said.
Tham was one of two panelist during discussion on income inequality and distribution. The other speaker was Dr Ragayah Mat Zin from Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas).
Similarly, Upko secretary general and former Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau (left), during his presentation lamented that the federal government had wronged in their priorities in terms of development.
In his former constituency of Tuaran for example, Wilfred said there were more than 60 villages without electricity supply.
“I had to bring the relevant minister there (myself) before we could provide electricity for 20 villages,” he said.
He added that at present, there were still 5,000km of gravel road in Sabah which ought to be upgraded in view of RM2 billion spent on a dedicated highway from Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur.
“What was the rational to build the highway from Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur at the cost of RM2 billion? Where was the prioritisation?” he asked.
On the economy, Tham said 2004 figures showed that the Sabah was lagging in economic development as the Sabah GDP per capita was at RM4,868 or about half of the national average of RM9,746.
The figure was derived despite Sabah’s consistent trade surplus and robust agricultural industries. Part of the problem, lamented Tham, was that Sabahans have to deal with higher commodity prices than in Peninsula Malaysia.
“Even a copy of a newspaper costs more for us,” he said.
Tham believed that the main emphasis of the federal government was in Sabah’s oil and gas reserves. However, he said the trickle down effect from the industry was not being felt on the ground.
“It is very unfair… I told the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) it is very silly to pipe the gas from Sabah to be processed in Sarawak for whatever reasons.
“I hope that such decisions are eventually changed. Sabah and Sarawak are very rich in oil and gas. Unfortunately, the federal government takes the money and never put it back into these states,” he said.
In closing, both Tham and Wilfred hoped that the federal government would pay more attention to Sabah’s needs in the future in view of the recent change in political climate.
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