SAPP: Gas pipeline, Sabah loses out badly again

Kota Kinabalu, November 10, 2008(Monday): Once again the interests of Sabah have succumbed to the vested interests of federal bodies like Petronas. Once again, our political leadership has failed Sabah.

The failed appeal of UPKO to scrap the Petronas 500 km, RM 3 billion gas pipeline from Kimanis to Bintulu was not a complete surprise. SAPP reiterates that the grossly unequal and unfair equation of federal-state power has worked against a divided State like Sabah. It is common knowledge that if UPKO were to carry out its threat to leave the BN, as reported in some papers, then UMNO and BN can rely on PBS to fill in the void left by UPKO. It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister had chosen to announce the decision to go ahead with the gas pipeline at the PBS Congress in Kota Kinabalu, while at the same time, praising PBS and its leaders. This is divide and rule in a glaring public display.

None of the Sabah leaders seem to support Tan Sri Bernard Dompok’s quest to hold the Prime Minister to his word last May to scrap the pipeline. Neither the (UPKO) State Minister of Industrial Development, Datuk Ewon Ebin, nor the Federal Deputy Minister of Industry who is also LDP President Datuk Liew Vui Keong, spoke out against the pipeline. None of the UMNO leaders at the State and Federal levels seem concerned that Sabah will suffer serious energy shortages in the next few years. For Sabah, which is dominated by UMNO, to lose out to Pertonas’s investments in Sarawak, which has no UMNO at all, is a betrayal of the early pledge of UMNO to uplift Sabah in comparison to other States.

This is the sad state that Sabah is in today to the extent that our government now even pretends to be happy that “surplus” gas will be used to build a full fledged oil and gas industry in Sabah. How can Sabahans have fallen to such a dismal state that even our government leaders have come to expect the people to believe such nonsense? Both the UPKO President and his party youth leader had earlier made brave statements giving high hopes to the people that they will fight to the end. Now, it seems, they are contented to eat the humble pie.

Tan Sri Bernard’s announcement that “the federal cabinet has now agreed to create a full-fledged petrochemical industry in Sabah using oil and gas in Sabah” was also immediately contradicted by another Minister (of Plantation and Commodities) Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui who stated that “Petronas should look into Sabah’s gas reqirements”. This vague, non-committal comment from Datuk Peter Chin sounds like Petronas has no idea about Sabah’s energy needs.

Those gas and oil belong to Sabah, not anybody else. Petronas only has a right to extract the oil and gas. If we cannot use it, then do not exploit it. Leave it there for future generations. The State Government can consider stopping the gas pipeline by using its powers under the land laws, which is a State matter under the Federal Constitution, to stop the access and transit of the pipeline.

Until such time that the Sabah’s oil and gas industry has reached a full fledged capacity, and IF there is a surplus of gas, then we allow the construction of the pipeline. At the absolute minimum, the Government must ensure that a sufficient gas power plant is built in Kimanis for the energy needs of Sabah before the construction of the gas pipeline is allowed. The Government must explain intelligently with facts and figure to show whether there will be a surplus of gas. There are not one, but three Liquefied natural Gas (LNG) plants in Bintulu with a combined capacity of 23 million tones per annum (mtpa), the single biggest LNG production facility in the whole world. And, according to reliable sources, the LNG facility in Bintulu will be expanded to take in the gas from Sabah. Are Sabahans therefore to expect that there will be any surplus of gas for Sabah?

It seems that the impending energy crisis in Sandakan has been forgotten in the decision making on the gas pipeline. Neither has any relevant minister for industry or energy or natural resource bothered to explain to the people on the gas pipeline and our energy policy. This is the type of arrogance of power by the BN leadership that will finally bring about the downfall of the BN government.

Datuk Yong Teck Lee

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