KUCHING: Although the Sarawak vs Petronas case is under the name of the state government, in principle it is between Sarawakians and Petronas, said Abdullah Saidol who is Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Corporate Affairs and Sarawak Public Communications Unit).

Saidol observed that the case is interesting to many Sarawakians because directly or indirectly, the state’s privileges and rights in the Federal Constitution were challenged by Petronas.

“That explains the presence of many people, especially Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) supporters, at court today (yesterday) has to be viewed not just as political support but as Sarawakians coming together regardless of background and race,” he said.

Among the GPS members who were at the Kuching Court Complex were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Saidol also said many of them realised that the implication or outcome of the case directly or otherwise would determine whether the special position of the state contained in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and Federal Constitution is respected or guaranteed.

“Future generations will talk about today’s (yesterday’s) event to evaluate our fight to defend the state’s rights. We do not want to waste time talking on and on about the past because more important is our actions from today onwards in defending the dignity of our ‘bumi Kenyalang’,” he said.

He also urged every Sarawakian to apply a message from the late chief minister Pehin Seri Adenan Satem, to ‘Jaga Sarawak Baik-baik’ (Take good care of Sarawak), and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s call of ‘Sayangkan Negeri Sarawak’.

Earlier yesterday, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring) Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, in a press release, said three applications were made and fixed for hearing yesterday before the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Kuching involving Sarawak suing Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) for unpaid state sales tax (SST) and penalties amounting to RM1.3 billion.

“Although the applications were supposed to be heard in chambers, the applications were fixed to be heard in open court.

“However, the lawyers for Petronas applied for the recusal of the presiding Judicial Commissioner to hear the application in chambers following the massive attendance of public and prominent figures from the state government which indicated a very significant support for the State Attorney-General’s team in fighting for the interest of the Sarawak,” she said.

Upon hearing arguments by both sides, the presiding Judicial Commissioner reserved his ruling on the recusal application and set Jan 23 for ruling on the application and case management.

“Separately, the Kuching High Court will also conduct the case management on Petronas’ judicial review, to quash the issuance of notices of assessment by the state government through its Comptroller of SST at 2.30pm, yesterday.

“The presiding judge then fixed Feb 3 to 5 for hearing of the Judicial Review Application by Petronas,” she said.