The 2012 Territorial Sea Act motivated Taib for the first time to embark on his own local oil extraction on land. He was venturing into oil and gas by the diminishing timber and volatile palm oil prices.
The timber of Borneo was almost expired (apart from thieving from national parks and across the border) and oil palm plantation concessions had been largely handed out. ?Phase 3? of Taib?s original plans to keep growing his multi-billion dollar personal empire was the industrialisation programme called SCORE (Sarawak Corridor Of Renewable Energy).
However, SCORE was and is still struggling due to Taib?s failure as a business visionary. The damming up of Sarawak?s rivers has been controversial for countless environmental and community reasons, resulting in limited foreign investment.
Oil and mining on the other hand, represents a return to Taib?s original money making model, namely power abuse and resource grab. In late 2012 therefore, an innovation was announced with the handing of a major on-shore concession (illegally in that the concession was not tendered and was awarded behind closed doors) to one of Taib?s most established business crony partners Tiong Hiew King, owner of the plantation and timber giant Rimbunan Hijau.
Tiong was a novice in oil extraction, however if money was to be made, why not keep it in the ?family?? The Tiong and Taib families have been inseparable over past decades.
It is therefore of perhaps little of surprise that as South Sea Energy Sdn Bhd appeared in public view in Sarawak recently, the man touted to the newspapers as the ?executive director? of that company is indeed none other than Tiong Kiong King the successor to his father?s business, with no mention of the executive vice presidential role of Abu Bekir Taib or indeed of the involvement of Taib himself.
Southsea Energy Sdn Bhd
So, what of Sarawak?s new petroleum policy and Southsea? Well, the evidence shows that shortly before the major announcement of the Petros venture in March 2018, the present Chief Minister, Abang Johari had himself gone to Oman, in January, where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with none other than Petrotel Energy Oman LLC (described previously as a joint venture, in which South Sea Energy run by the Taibs was a key partner) to ?explore the possibility of co-operation to develop the downstream sector of oil and gas industries in Sarawak?.
Moreover, as announcements by the newly established Petros confirmed, South Sea Energy, described as an ?International oil and gas company with links to Sarawak?, was also a signatory to the MoU. Tiong was featured in the signing and picture line up, described as ?Executive Director?, but surprisingly, or maybe not, there is no mention of the Taibs then.
Following this shocking development, which was not subjected to the rakyat?s scrutiny and oversight, Sarawak?s startling new oil and gas policy was launched in March when Najib was at his greatest pre-election weakness. The state declared it must take over the authority of Petronas as the regulator and custodian of oil and gas resources in Sarawak.
Out-playing the opposition, Abang Johari confidently announced that the Sarawak state government would seize back control of its oil reserves through its new 100% controlled state company, Petros, in order (allegedly) to exploit its oil resources for the benefit of the Sarawak people.
Backing Johari?s position, a movement called Suarah Petroleum Group Sarawak (claiming to represent ?oil industry professionals?) issued stirring statements to the local newspapers declaring that the ?People of Sarawak? were reclaiming their rights through the move. Yet, there had been no debate about the plan to create Petros and very little information made available about how the company would work or distribute any benefits, even now.
All Sarawakians must support this revolutionary move, as it immediately gives tangible hope for the equitable redressing of economic imbalances faced by Sarawak from the uneven distribution of economic value-creation and being subjected to unfair exploitation policies/practices of its rich oil and gas natural resources.
For avoidance of any doubt, it is no longer ?business as usual?. The Sarawak Government officially no longer recognizes the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (?PDA74?) that had unconstitutionally vested Sarawak?s petroleum resources with Petronas.
Suarah Petroleum Group
This has, alI in all, constituted a stunning and daring direct challenge to Petronas and the arrangement of the past four and a half decades. The opportunity to frame the launch of Petros in the language of the opposition?s own campaign to bring revenues back to the Sarawak people has been fully taken advantage of by promoters of Petros, like the anonymous Suarah Petroleum Group:
To ensure that proper management and governance is in place to safeguard the state?s resources and its environment, the Sarawak Government should without delay set up the Sarawak Petroleum Authority, reporting directly to the Chief Minister or perhaps to a newly created Ministry of Energy, with full powers and authority to control and regulate ALL aspects of the petroleum industry in Sarawak.
Most importantly, Sarawak must be able to craft its own strategic policy and values of having control and ownership of its oil and gas resources aimed to promote the best utilisation and value creation from the Sarawak?s resources. These policies and values will underpin the terms and conditions of, amongst others, the fiscal regime, procurement policies and giving priority to Sarawak companies.
Shockingly, SPG was created, funded and directed by Awang Tengah (Deputy Chief Minister and Deputy Land & Resources Minister), Taib?s blue-eyed boy and positioned as CM-in-waiting to replace Abang Jo.