(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The announcement by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi that the Federal Government has decided to continue giving opposition-run Terengganu special payment under a mechanism called "Program Pembiayaan Wang Ehsan" directly from a federal-level committee cannot hide the fact that it is a naked hijacking of the five per cent oil royalty of Terengganu by the Barisan Nasional Federal Government.
Such an action is a gross breach of faith with the people of Terengganu and the most undemocratic crass politicking of the worst kind to set up a parallel state government in Terengganu to undermine the popularly-elected PAS state government.
The Barisan Nasional Federal Government’s intention to commit a gross breach of faith with the people of Terengganu began when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad returned from a visit to Egypt and Italy at the end of June and announced that the Government would study whether Terengganu had the right to oil royalty.
Three days later, without consulting Petronas, the Attorney-General’s chambers or seeking the advice of the judiciary, Mahathir unilaterally hardened his position and declared that it was a "mistake" giving Terengganu five per cent in oil royalty.
He said that when Terengganu was under Barisan Nasional rule, the Federal Government had not considered in detail the rights of the various states to get royalties. 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.
It was significant that a few days later (29th June 2000), 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.
It is clear that Mahathir has overruled Petronas, refusing to recognise its legal commitment to pay five per cent royalty to Terengganu and directing it to dishonour its obligation by withholding the five per cent oil royalty of RM810 million owed to the Terengganu state government.
It is sad to see the former Terengganu Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad appearing on TV 3 last night to defend and justify the Federal Government’s hijacking of Terengganu’s five per cent oil royalty when as the longest-serving Mentri Besar of Terengganu spanning 25 years, he should have been the first to speak up for the rights of the people of Terengganu to the five per cent oil royalty.
The Federal government said Terengganu would be paid a sum equal to five percent of the value of the state's oil royalty, as was the case previously, although not to the Terengganu state government but directly through a federal-level committee, chaired by the Secretary-General of the Treasury. This is the most eloquent admission of the right of the state of Terengganu to the five per cent oil royalty.
In announcing that the people of Terengganu would enjoy direct federal funding as well as the widest opportunities towards improving their lot and that the mechanism to implement the programme of payments of "goodwill contributions" was being finalised, the Barisan Nasional Federal Government is putting party interests above the larger national interests of promoting national unity to bind Malaysians of different races, religions, cultures as well as territories into one unified whole.
With RM810 million a year hijacked from the Terengganu state government and placed directly under its command, the Barisan Nasional Federal Government probably believes that it could undermine the PAS Terengganu State Government whose budget is very much smaller of about RM500 million a year, most of which would have to go to pay the salaries of the state civil service.
However, the Barisan Nasional may be making a fatal mistake. If the Terengganu UMNO state government, with the state budget together with the five per cent oil royalty, could be rejected by the people in the last general election, what surety is there that the Federal government can successful undermine and subvert the PAS Terengganu state government merely by hijacking the five per cent oil royalty?
The most important issue to win the hearts and minds of the people of
Terengganu, as well as in Malaysia, is to dispense justice - and the hijacking
of Terengganu’s five per cent oil royalty is the most unjust act against
the people and state of Terengganu which cannot win the Barisan Nasional
Federal Government any plaudits or bouquets at all - whether in Terengganu
or in Malaysia.