Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani (MI)
KUALA LUMPUR , Nov 30 — Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said today that he can decide for himself whether he will take up the invitation to head the oil royalty caucus.
Last week, Barisan Nasional (BN) deputy chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin urged the Kelantan prince to carefully consider before deciding on the invitation to head the caucus to be set up by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers to probe the oil royalty issue.
Razaleigh stressed that the oil royalty issue was bipartisan because it involves public interest.
“I don’t have to think too much about it. I am already an adult; I can think for myself.
“What does the principle have to do with it? If it is like that, we should not be members of Parliament. In Parliament there are also oppositions. We are talking about national interest.
“PAC’s chairman is member of Barisan Nasional, its deputy is DAP. Back then, when there was a body on United Nation’s human rights, Nazri was the chairman and Kit Siang was the deputy. What is wrong with it?” he told reporters in Parliament lobby.
Muhyiddin had stressed that party is more important than state and its members should respect the principle.
“We have a principle that BN parties do not get involved in these matters. We are tied to these principles even though we know its (caucus) purpose,” Muhyiddin said last week.
The Gua Musang MP added that he will not give a timeframe for making his decision.
“It is public interest; we are all representing the rakyat so I want to see that there is a fair representation in the caucus’ members before I give my final say.
“There is no urgency in this, is it? Even if you decide it later and the government decides to listen to us, it has to be backdated anyways so I don’t think anybody will lose except that the government should honour and respect the agreement that was signed. Similarly, Petronas must carry out its obligation,” he added.
Parliamentary opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had announced that the founding chairman of Petronas had accepted the invitation to head the caucus. However, the mainstream media later reported that the Gua Musang MP had neither accepted nor declined the invitation.
“There wasn’t any misunderstanding; I think he probably didn’t get what I was telling him properly. I was telling that I have not accepted nor have I rejected the invitation so let me consider it, but I would like to have a fair representation from members of parliament from all the states particularly from the oil producing states,” Razaleigh clarified.
Razaleigh reiterated that the goodwill payment does not exist in the agreement.
“There was no goodwill payment in the agreement, I made the agreement and there was no goodwill payment. Goodwill payment is for those who are begging for alms. This is the public’s right.
“I don’t think we have to be confused about this. One day, I will give a clear explanation in Kelantan in public lectures organised by a certain group,” he said.
The proposed caucus aims to draft amendments to the Petroleum Development Act to ensure that oil-producing states — including opposition-controlled Kelantan — receive royalties in line with the philosophy that constituted the Act in 1974.
Tengku Razaleigh’s involvement in the opposition campaign to get oil royalty for Kelantan formally started last Wednesday when he said that the state had the right to receive profit from its oil.
The former finance minister was involved in the drafting of the Act and the opposition has argued that the law was drafted to ensure that oil-producing states receive a five per cent royalty.
He said that it was Kelantan’s “constitutional right” to receive royalty.
But Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that Kelantan was not entitled to it as the oil is extracted beyond state waters or beyond three nautical miles from the shore.
This argument was again used as the government’s defence in not giving Kelantan royalty by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Aziz when pressed by the opposition in Parliament last week.
Kelantan, which is under PAS control, will instead receive “goodwill payment” for its oil, said Najib.
The announcement sparked an uproar among PR lawmakers, particularly those from PAS, who have been fighting to get oil royalty since 2001. The campaign was led by Kelantan state exco Datuk Husam Musa.