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Friday, January 9, 2009

> T'ganu to withdraw oil royalty suit

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Said said the nine-year-old suit against the federal government for withholding oil royalties will be withdrawn in March.  

At a press conference in Kuala Terengganu today, Ahmad (right) said that the state government was still ironing out several legal technicalities before the suit can be withdrawn.  

“Under our arrangement with Petronas, they are suppose to pay us twice a year - in March and in September,” he said in reference to the five percent royalty which the company is to pay to the oil-rich state. 

Our legal advisor is in the process of withdrawing the suit but there are one or two technical issues which needs to be resolved first.”

If all goes to plan, the Terengganu government should assume full control of the oil royalties, estimated at about RM1 billion annually, by March. 

The federal government had in 2000 withdrew payment of oil royalties months after PAS took control of the state in the 1999 general elections.

Subsequently, the then-PAS government filed a suit against the federal government for denying oil royalties, which it argued was meant to be a punishment to the opposition-controlled state. 

Instead the oil royalty payments - now renamed ‘wang eshan’ (goodwill payment) - were channeled directly to BN-controlled agencies for disbursements to the state.  

However, even after BN had recaptured Terengganu in 2004, the federal government did not restore oil royalty payments to the state government.

It was only after Ahmad took over the menteri besar post in March last year, with the backing of the Terengganu sultan, that the payments were restored.   

However, Ahmad denied allegations that Terengganu had yet to drop the law suit in order to threaten Putrajaya into returning the oil royalty to the state coffers.  

“There are no threats. We (federal and state government) are like father and son,” he said.  

No infighting within state Umno

On the on-going Barisan campaign, Ahmad denied that the party machinery was being hampered by infighting among party factions.  

“We don’t have a problem with the candidate. We only nominated one. I did not nominate anyone else. .. He (Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh) was endorse unanimously at the division and later at the state level,” he said. 

Instead he said it was PAS which was split with the party Terengganu chief, Mustafa Ali, seeking to offer himself as the by-election candidate.  

“We’re not like PAS. Everyone knows there was a struggle (over the PAS candidate),” said Ahmad, adding that Mustafa wanted to contest as it would be his ‘last chance’ due to his age.  

Asked on his evaluation of Wan Ahmad Farid (left), the BN’s candidate in the by-election, Ahmad was non-committal.  

“If I want to say I’m satisfied, that would be difficult. If we have weaknesses, we should improve ourselves,” he said, adding that Wan Ahmad Farid, who was a senator, has no experience in contesting for either the state or parliamentary constituency.

Wan Ahmad Farid is squaring off against five-term Wakaf Mempelam assemblyperson and PAS candidate Abdul Wahid Endut and independent candidate Azharuddin Mamad in the crucial Jan 17 by-election - Malaysiakini.