As a BN-led government, we must follow Allah’s commands – Najib Tun Razak

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The Prime Minister has made it clear that there is no place for politics in Putrajaya’s relations with states, particularly in Opposition-ruled states like Kelantan and Selangor.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the federal government was always fair and transparent towards all Malaysians.

“As a BN-led government, we must follow Allah’s commands. Among them, we must be fair in governing, and the BN government is indeed fair to the people,” he said at his breaking-of-fast with the people in Bachok.

Addressing 20,000 residents, Najib pointed out that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government was impartial in meeting the needs of the Kelantan people, whatever their political ideology.

“We want to be fair, transparent and open a new chapter for the people of Kelantan; that the federal government is not denying their rights even over a barrel of petroleum,” he said.

The Prime Minister has certainly tried to be fair, if not generous, to Opposition-ruled states. In 2009 he had resumed oil payments to Kelantan even though oil was no longer extracted in the state’s coastal waters.

Najib has now gone a step further by announcing the formation of a special committee to study in a “fair and transparent manner” cash payments from petroleum revenue to the states along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

The committee will be chaired by former chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad and will give representatives from the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu a chance to put their case in an open forum.

“We must act based on the country’s constitution, taking into consideration where the oil wells are. Petronas will clarify where they are at sea. But we’ve decided a cash payment of five per cent for Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang,” Najib told the crowd.

The Prime Minister decided to speak directly to the people of Kelantan to assuage any misconception after PAS state leaders – fearful that Najib’s positive step would cost them an issue in the lead up to the election – had criticised the new panel.

The PAS-led Kelantan government has demanded that Putrajaya’s oil royalty panel shorten its probe from six months to three, as the state government was suspicious that this was some kind of vote-winning strategy by BN.

Undeterred by PAS’ petty politicking, Najib said he had sent a letter to the Sultan of Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V and Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat to choose a representative to be part of the special committee. He said he wanted a representative would not side with any party, but would have “the spirit and soul of the Kelantan people”.

How our nation’s precious oil wealth is shared within Malaysia will always be a contentious issue. On the one hand some states have long claimed they deserve payments for oil extracted within their territory. On the other hand it is a resource that belongs to all Malaysians.

Short-sighted politicians view everything through the narrow prism of the next election, while national leaders look beyond such petty political considerations to the long-term national interest instead.

Najib’s special committee is expected to propose a “fair” distribution of cash payments from petroleum revenue to the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu, to resolve the long drawn-out dispute.

It will study the cash disbursements within the next six months before making its recommendations to the federal government. This is a positive long-term solution to the vexed issue, and should be viewed as an essential step in the national interest.

Yet the short-sighted PAS leadership cannot look beyond their immediate political calculations, even though this new panel could actually help Kelantan and its residents.

Contrast this with Najib’s approach. With an election in the offing, he could have made a grand populist gesture but that isn’t his style.

Instead he has asked none other than a former Chief Justice to chair his committee. Najib has given Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad broad terms of reference and six whole months to complete its work.

The Prime Minister has made no rash promises, and has instead opted for a measured approach.

Oil and gas are a gift to this nation. The revenue can be used to keep petrol costs down for families and businesses and to fund infrastructure projects that benefit the nation and attract investment.

That is in the national interest, not merely winning the next election. – The Choice