The Sarawak government has downplayed a report claiming that governor Abdul Taib Mahmud is involved in Petroleum Sarawak (Petros), a state-owned entity which has been touted as a vehicle to reclaim Sarawak's oil rights.
The Sarawak Chief Minister's Office, in a statement today, made reference to Sarawak Report's article titled: "Taib's secret interest in Sarawak's Petros venture".
"With regard to the content of the article, this office wishes to clarify that Petros, the state oil company and co-regulator of the oil and gas industry in Sarawak, have nothing to do with the venture in Oman as alleged in the article," it said.
Sarawak Report said Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had in January this year travelled to Oman to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Petrotel Energy Oman (Petrotel), which was previously reported as a joint-venture entity involving Taib's family.
A 2016 report by Times of Oman said South Sea Energy was a key partner in the Petrotel joint venture. It further reported that South Sea Energy's executive vice-president was Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib.
The report said at a signing ceremony between South Sea Energy and Nizwaz Bank for a loan facility, both Abu Bekir and his father Taib were present.
Sarawak Report said as for the MOU signed by Petros with Petrotel early this year, it happened that South Sea Energy was also a signatory.
But this time, South Sea Energy was represented by its executive director Tiong Kiong King, the son of businessperson Tiong Hiew King, a Taib ally.
However, the Sarawak government said the said MOU had lapsed and that it was "merely an understanding for Petros to assist should the company intended to invest in Sarawak".
It also accused Sarawak Report of attempting to smear Petros' image.