The Prime Minister said yesterday that when the state was under Barisan Nasional rule, the Government had not considered in detail the rights of the various states to get royalties.
Mahathir had said that the Federal Government had agreed to pay five per cent royalty then because Terengganu was one of the poorest in the country and at that time the Government believed that the oil reserves were small and Terengganu would only get RM50 million at the most. But at the rate Petronas was progressing, the five per cent royalty could translate into RM1 billion.
Mahathir should explain on what legal and constitutional basis did he come to the conclusion in the last three days that it was a "mistake" giving Terengganu five per cent in oil royalty, for otherwise, the only conclusion the people can draw is that this is just his extended vendetta against PAS and the people of Terengganu are being punished and denied their rightful due because they had exercised their constitutional and democratic right to choose the government they want in the last general election on Nov. 29, 1999.
Did Mahathir consult the Attorney-General, Petronas and other legal experts because coming to the categorical position that Terengganu is not entitled to the five per cent oil royalty or is this simply and purely a personal political decision?
Or has Mahathir, after 19 years as Prime Minister and the relentless concentration of power by the office of Prime Minister from other branches of government usurping the powers of the judiciary, the legislature and other independent organs of government, come to the position that his word has virtually become the supreme law in the country?
This is why the statement by the Finance Ministry Advisor Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, who had just been appointed UMNO Information Chief (is it right and proper for the Advisor to the Finance Ministry to be also the UMNO Information Chief?) said the move by the Federal government to review the oil royalty for Terengganu "is not a political act" lacks credibility whatsoever.
In fact, Petronas yesterday confirmed Terengganu’s right to the five per cent oil royalty.
At a press conference to announce the national oil company’s best-ever annual results with a 83 per cent surge in pre-tax profit to RM21.6 billion for the year to March 31, 2000, Petronas president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Mohamad Hassan Marican said Petronas would continue paying five per cent oil royalty to Terengganu on offshore oil and gas to Terengganu.
He said: "For as long as oil is produced, royalty will be paid to the state and the royalty amount, accrued or due is RM810 million, which is 5% of the value of oil and gas produced".
The Petronas chief executive said that the oil royalty for Terengganu is based on the agreement signed in 1975.
Will Mahathir now direct Petronas, despite recognising its legal commitment to pay five per cent royalty to Terengganu, to dishonour its obligation by withholding the RM810 million owed to Terengganu state government or are Hassan Marican’s days as the Petronas’ chief executive numbered?
It is sad and pathetic that the former Terengganu Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad had become so embittered by the defeat of his UMNO state government in the last general election that he was the first to jump up to declare that Terengganu had no right to the five per cent oil royalty, that it was not a "right" but the "compassion" payment of the Federal Government as Terengganu was very poor and backward.
If Terengganu was given the five per cent oil royalty because of its
poverty, why wasn’t this "compassion" extended to Kelantan, which
was even poorer than Terengganu as far back as the seventies, as illustrated
by the following data:
1971 1975 1980
Terengganu 614 765 1,316
Mahathir should concede and drop the Terengganu oil royalty issue and show the world that he is fair and will not punish the people of Terengganu by wantonly and arbitrarily reneging on the Federal Government’s commitment to pay five per cent oil royalty to Terengganu.