Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh

KUCHING (Aug 3): Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) has called on the state government to give full and transparent disclosure of the terms of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) withdrawing its appeal against the Kuching High Court’s ruling.

PSB president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said that this comes after the Sarawak government, at the same time, withdrew its cross-appeal over jurisdiction issue of the High Court on the state sales tax (SST).

“Based on the details of the withdrawal, it is apparent that Petronas and the state government had come to a settlement. PSB thus calls on the government to give full and transparent disclosure to the people of Sarawak of the terms of such settlement,” said Wong in a statement today.

Apart from that, he said that the government should also, without limiting the generality of such disclosure, reveal whether the settlement included recognition of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 and the Territorial Seas Act 2012 too.

Wong said that Sarawakians needed to know whether the two acts were now valid and applicable to Sarawak, notwithstanding the fact that they were never passed in the state legislative assembly.

“It is imperative for the government to reveal the extent of any concession it had to make (if any) in return for collecting payment of SST which is rightfully and lawfully due and owed to Sarawak.

“PSB, and we believe the people of Sarawak in general, would oppose any concession being given to Petronas in return for payment of SST which Petronas owes under the law,” he said.

Thus, Wong said that PSB called for full disclosure of the amounts that Petronas had agreed to pay and whether such amounts were consistent with the budget figures tabled by the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also state Finance Minister, for the preceding years budget.

Furthermore, Wong also stated that PSB would like to know whether the government had given any undertaking to Petronas to gradually reduce the SST in future years, as revealed by Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali recently.

“If such an undertaking was given, the government owes the people an explanation why it has to give such concession to Petronas in respect of tax that the state is lawfully entitled to impose,” he said.

On March 13, this year, the Kuching High Court ruled that Article 95B (3) of the Federal Constitution provided that the Legislature of Sabah and Sarawak may make laws for imposition of sales tax.

The High Court judge Azhahari Kamal Ramli at the time said that the provision stated that any sales tax imposed by state law was to be deemed among the matters enumerated in the state list, the State Sales Tax Ordinance and any subsidiary legislation made thereunder, is constitutional and valid.

Azhahari dismissed Petronas’ judicial review application to quash the notices of assessment issued by the Sarawak state government seeking the oil and gas company to pay RM1.3 billion in SST.

Petronas sought, among others, a declaration of certain sections of the notices as ultra vires to the Federal Constitution and null and void, and also sought a certiorari order that the notices dated Aug 28, 2019; Oct 7, 2019; and Nov 13, 2019, issued by Sarawak state government to Petronas to be quashed.