Petition – Petronas’ corporate responsibility for the violent repression of saffron revolution


by Daniel Chong


As you have highlighted in your blog, things are not well in Burma and for me it is not good that the corporations are able to keep silent while the people, NGOs and governments are making all the headlines in the press.

I think Burma is our little version of Afghanistan (important pipelines, warlords, refugees, drugs…) Its unsettling that we the neighbours have adopted a “close one eye” mentality.

Please have a look at this petition I wrote. If you support it, I hope you can make a mention of it in your blog. If not could you forward it to someone who might?

Tan Sri Dato Sri Mohd Hassan Marican
President and CEO of PETRONAS
Tower 1, PETRONAS Twin Towers
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
50088 Kuala Lumpur

Dear Sir,

We the undersigned are writing to raise serious concerns about Petronas’s involvement in the Yetagun Gas Project in Myanmar(1).

Given how incredibly cruel the ruling military government is treating its citizens over the last weeks and decades, and the fact that the protest was sparked by cut in fuel subsidies(2), we feel it is necessary that Petronas release a statement to explain in as much detail as possible, how and why Petronas can do business with such a disreputable government through the state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd.

How does Petronas answer the many activist accusations that such business activities funds the oppresive regime (3)? What is Petronas’s stance on the current worrying political situation in Myanmar? Is it business as usual (4)? Is Petronas only concerned at being a responsible corporate citizen only within the shores of our country (5)?

Should Petronas say that these business deal brings about positive developments for Myanmar, can Petronas give a clear report on such changes? So many years has Myanmar opened itself to foreign trade yet the people have benefited so little and so slowly from such deals. If such trade is so beneficial to the people of Myanmar, would they be out in the streets protesting today?

So far, one may read from a Bernama release that “Malaysia has provided aid in human capital development through the provision of 137 university scholarships of which 70 were provided by Petronas (Sept 26)”(4). From your website, it is stated that on 1 April 2005 “PETRONAS launched its Volunteer Oppurtunity Programme to give its staff the oppurtunity to contribute their services through community relations projects. Working in collaboration with MERCY Malaysia, PETRONAS volunteers have been sent to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Myanmar.” (6)

We are sure that Petronas can do more to help the people of Myanmar.

While it is understandable that that acquiring, trading and distributing oil and gas fairly and ethically is a supremely challenging affair, we hope Petronas will put further thought into the short and long term social and environmental cost of your activities and conduct. We would also like to add that since Petronas is a wholly owned government corporation, the reputation of this company stands alongside its people. While some countries’ citizens can pump fuel in their cars in total disregard of the blood drawn by the faceless private multinational petroleum corporation that did it, we for one, as proud Malaysians we tak boleh lah!

Finally, as someone who has met with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar Vice-Admiral Maung Maung Khin in Yangon on 24 August 2001 (7), I hope you will put to good use your contact with the ruling party.

Thank you for reading this petition. We hope to receive a response soon.

Fellow Petitioners

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 11:02 am

    Human rights activists are barking on wrong door to petition against corporations including such like Petronas doing business with ONGC Videsh Ltd. state controlled by an oppressive military junta Myanmar regime.

    A corporation is not an NGO. Neither is it a governmental body, though in the case of Petronas it may be government affiliated or linked. A corporation is not concerned with morals or human rights in the general sense as long as it abides by laws to which it is subject. It’s man objective is profits because it owes a duty to its shareholders to increase shareholder value, its employees for better remuneration, and its clients and customers for delivery of good and services of quality in accordance to contractual specifications.

    Petronas cannot by itself consider non business considerations for example human rights and forget about the fact that it would be reneging on its joint venture contractual terms in ONGC Videsh Ltd. opening itself to suits for damages for breach of agreements from Myanmar JV partner as well as other customers upstream and down stream Petronas might have entered into on the premise of the project undertaken in ONGC Videsh Ltd before the military crackdown!

    What good will a withdrawal from doing business with Military Junta do when the vacuum and opportunity to make profit will be immediately filled by other corporate competitors from other countries taking the profit back to benefit their own citizens?

    When Petronas says it’s a responsible corporate citizen it means it will conduct its business responsibly having regard to Malaysian public and national interest and without violation of domestic Malaysian laws or international law.

    Until the United Nation’s Security Council imposes economic sanctions of the nature inclusive of such oil and gas business to which Malaysian Government is bound to follow, Petronas should be free to pursue its economic interest in Myanmar according to true blue capitalistic consideration (unless the breakdown of law and order is such that the safety of its contractors and employees, to whom Petronas owes a duty, are otherwise imperilled).

    By its founding Charter, Petronas has not arrogated to itself the role of global champion and keeper of Democracy and enforcer of Human Rights and should not pretend such.

    Human rights activists should therefore target the governments including China or those of ASEAN backing the junta rather than the companies active in Myanmar.

    In the case of Petronas controlled by the government of Malaysia, activists should petition the Prime Minister representing the Malaysian government to take Petronas out of Burma and not to Hassan Marican as President and CEO of Petronas directly.

    So Daniel, much as I admire and appreciate your idealistic principles and share your fervent wish for the dismantling of the Military Junta regime in Myanmar, I am afraid to say that the petition is misplaced…..

  2. #2 by carboncopy on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 11:41 am

    The slavery “business” was a very lucrative business. Slave labour for plantations.

    The fight for ablution of slavery by William Wilberforce was not just by highlighting the monstrosity and barbaric practises of slave trade.

    William Wilberforce pushed the economic direction to make slave trade not economically viable.

    Economic drives the politics. Well, most of the time.

    Some my argue that, oh well, if Petronas pull out from Burma, some other company will snap it up. Just as the British was arguing that the France will fill in the gap for slave trade if British abolish it.

    Petronas is a national entity. Which means it belongs to the people of Malaysia, not BN. I know, in reality its something else. But in Malaysia today, where profits are privatise, and losses socialise; we Malaysians have blood on our hand if we fail to pressure Petronas to disengage from Burma and Sudan.

    Do not underestimate the power of consumer spending. Boycotting producer/product can be very effective. In this case, total boycott of Petronas products and services.

    Lets sign the petition as the first salvo.

  3. #3 by Jamesy on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 11:52 am

    As far as ASEAN countries are not willing to imposed hard economic sanctions on the military regime in Myanmar, you can forget about Petronas or other multinational companies of the ASEAN countries pulling out of Myanmar.

    Someone once said economic sanctions will results in Burmese people suffering more.

  4. #4 by Jamesy on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 12:03 pm

    Hoping for United States or European Union to imposed such sanctions is not enough, we must remember there is Russia, India, China and other ASEAN countries which still have economic interest and trade with the military regime.

    So do you think ASEAN countries, Russia, India and China will imposed economic sanctions on the military junta? Will other corporations of these countries join forces with Petronas assuming that Petronas assumed corporate responsibility?

    I don’t think so.

  5. #5 by hawaiichee on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 12:06 pm

    10 November Saturday, 3pm Dataran Merdeka – walk to the Istana

    09/10: Tuntut pilihan raya adil – Perhimpunan Rakyat 10 November ini di Dataran Merdeka

    Intan Abdullah

    Gabungan Menuntut Pilihan Raya Bersih dan Adil (BERSIH) akan menganjurkan satu perhimpunan raksasa yang dinamakan perhimpunan rakyat pada Sabtu 10 November ini di Dataran Merdeka.

    Dalam satu pengumuman yang dibuat pada sidang media hari ini, BERSIH dijangka akan mengadakan perhimpunan tersebut bermula jam 3 petang.

    “Perhimpunan tersebut seterusnya akan berarak ke Istana Negara bagi menyerahkan memorandum tuntutan rakyat kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong untuk menyuarakan hasrat rakyat untuk menjalani pilihan raya yang bersih dan adil seperti yang terkandung di dalam tuntutan BERSIH sebelum ini,” ujar wakil Jawatankuasa Bersih di Pejabat Agung PAS, Jalan Raja Laut tengahari tadi.

    Menurut Jawatankuasa BERSIH, Sivarasa Rasiah, ia juga sebagai satu ketetapan yang telah diambil oleh mereka yang menjangkakan bahawa pilihan raya umum ke-12 akan diadakan seawal November.

    “Kami membuat telahan tersebut berdasarkan situasi Umno-BN yang kini berada keadaan terdesak, setelah melalui dua insiden yang menekan mereka iaitu peristiwa berdarah di Batu Buruk serta pendedahan video klip rasuah peguam dan hakim negara,” jelasnya.

    Perdana Menteri, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ujarnya mungkin akan membuat pengumuman tarikh PRU 12 lebih awal untuk mengeluarkan diri mereka daripada tekanan-tekanan tersebut sepertimana yang dibuat oleh PM sebelumnya pada PRU 1999.

    “Ia adalah suatu jangkaan kritikal dibuat BERSIH berbeza dengan beberapa tekaan yang dibuat oleh beberapa parti politik sebelum ini,” ujar AJK PAS Pusat, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad pula,

    Tindakan mengadakan perhimpunan tersebut adalah rentetan daripada resolusi Konvensyen Rakyat beberapa bulan yang lalu.

    Koordinator Badan Penggerak Demokrasi Rakyat, Anuar Tahir berkata tarikh pilihan raya bukan suatu fokus yang utama bagi BERSIH sebaliknya tuntutan reformasi rakyat terhadap perjalanan pilihan raya perlu terus dihidupkan.

    “Kerana ia mungkin akan mengundang kecurangan dalam PRU 12 sebagaimana yang berlaku dalam PRU 2004 yang lalu,” jelasnya.

    Penganjur juga ujarnya sedang berusaha menyelesaikan urusan mendapatkan permit untuk mengadakan perhimpunan tersebut, serta telah menggerakkan ahli-ahli parti atau pertubuhan yang bergabung dalam gabungan tersebut bagi menjayakannya.

    “Kami juga telah bersiap sedia dengan sebarang kemungkinan dan risiko yang bakal berlaku nanti,” tambah Sivarasa.

    Sementara itu, dalam sidang media yang sama BERSIH turut memaklumkan bahawa mereka akan menghantar surat kepada Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (Suhakam) berhubung isu tragedi berdarah di Batu Buruk pada 8 September lalu.

    “Setelah mengadakan mesyuarat hari ini, kami membuat keputusan untuk menghantar surat kepada Suhakam mengenai permintaan kami agar diadakan satu siasatan menyeluruh terhadap tragedi tersebut memandangkan Pesuruhjaya Suhakam, Dato’ Siva Subramaniam telah membawanya ke mesyuarat mereka semalam,” ujarnya.

    Bersih berharap akan mendapat keputusan yang positif daripada hasil mesyuarat tersebut, seterusnya membawa kepada tindakan bersepadu supaya perkara tersebut tidak akan berulang.

    “Malangnya, media arus perdana sengaja memainkan taktik ‘kewartawanan jahat’ yang sentiasa diulang tayangan menyebabkan persepsi buruk rakyat kepada Bersih dan parti pembangkang,” tambah Dr Dzulkefly.

    Bersih menyatakan kekesalan dan menyelar tindakan parti pemerintah yang menggunakan media arus perdana sebagai jentera menyebarkan propaganda jahat serta kempen untuk merosakkan imej parti-parti pembangkang.

  6. #6 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 9:05 pm

    “Its unsettling that we the neighbours have adopted a “close one eye” mentality.” Daniel Chong

    You’re wrong there! There is a difference between closing one eye and opening one eye – just as there is a difference between a cup which is half empty and a cup which is half full.

  7. #7 by anakbaram on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 - 9:59 pm

    Petronas has no moral value itself. Look how biased they are in trying to keep it so called “bumi”. The number of non Malays in Petronas is neglegible. It does not reflect the profile of the Malaysia population or meritrocracy for that matter. In Sarawak & Sabah the ethnic Sarawakian and Sabahan like the Dayak and Kedazan-Murut people are the bare minority in working in the East Malaysian operation. This Company is another prove of lobsidedness of these peole.

  8. #8 by D3K on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 3:01 am

    Hello, Daniel here. Thanks for reading, commenting and forwarding this petition. So far there’s over 100 signatures, 45 online and 70 plus on paper. I will go on collecting for awhile more before printing this and presenting it personally, if possible, to the CEO or a Petronas board member. I’m hoping to hit 500 :-) and more so please keep spreading this petition. Terima Kasih!

    Before you sign, please do read the letter in full and check the links if you have time. My goal is NOT for Petronas to cease all economic activities and withdraw from the country as Jeffrey the first commentator implies. Its unlikely that the regime will fall overnight and improbable that Petronas will break its contract and pull out. I am a pragmatic optimist. The minimum I am seeking at the moment is that Petronas answers publicly the questions I have posed.

    Jeffrey, I think you are the idealistic one here. What I conclude from your letter is that you seem to have a high school textbook definition of governments, corporations and NGOs and their operating principles. Correct me if I am wrong now, in your world, everyone has their roles and responsibilities and order has to be maintained in the various hierarchies. In your world, business is business and everyone should mind their own business, any business is good business so long that that business brings profit, doesn’t hurt anyone or break the law. I wish Jeffrey the world was this perfect.

    Well Jeffrey, the world I see is topsy-turvy. Monks who are suppose to practice asceticism, withdraw from secular life and practice non violence are out on the streets. Military generals who should just command the army and protect the citizens are instead terrorizing the country and exploiting it for their own private capitalistic gains.

    The world I see has a international corporation like Petronas wholly owned by the national government, which in turn is suppose to be representative of the people.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think my government nor Petronas are doing such a good job and I am looking for people who agree on this point so that together, we can speak up against injustice. Please read my letter and the links carefully and maybe you will see that instead of “barking up the wrong door” Jeffrey, the gas and petrol companies are like the connecting door that takes you right to the bed room suite of the military junta?

    And here’s the deal, since you adviced that a petition should be made to the Prime Minister, please write it and I will sign it. At the end of the day, we may disagree in the solutions of the problem, we both agree that it exists! And thus our realities have connected :)

    And Jamesy, I use to be as pessimistic and cynical as you. Why say anything or do anything? What can we change? Its the UN, its the Europeans, the US, and China and other authorities who need to take action. My own father said “Malaysia is such a small country, no one listens to us…”. Heck, this petition is only a hundred plus strong. But then I saw this And it spured me into action again. Hope it helps you too.

    Thanks Carboncopy and other supporters of this petition.

  9. #9 by demirez89 on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 4:58 am

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a two edged sword. I fully agree with Jeffrey on the constraints a corporate entity faces in attempting to “protest” the junta ruling on its citizen. On one hand, to be a socially responsible entity is to demand Petronas leave its investments in Myanmar as a protest to its actions. However, if Petronas does reduce its investments and pulls out of Myanmar, what will happen to the locals that are employed because of Petronas’ links with Myanmar? An oppressive ruling junta is bad…being unemployed under an oppressive ruling junta is worse.

  10. #10 by Jamesy on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 2:07 pm

    D3K Says:
    October 11th, 2007 at 03: 01.41

    And Jamesy, I use to be as pessimistic and cynical as you. Why say anything or do anything? What can we change? Its the UN, its the Europeans, the US, and China and other authorities who need to take action. My own father said “Malaysia is such a small country, no one listens to us…”.

    Chill out friend, just my opinion, ok?

    Am I not entitled to my own opinion?

    I’ve just signed the petition and encourage all readers here to do the same.


  11. #11 by umnology on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 8:03 pm

    Practicing CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP is the same as going for PRAYER.

    One is chicken egg, another is duck egg.

    Both are eggs.

    What’s the linkage?

  12. #12 by shortie kiasu on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 10:51 pm

    Than Shwe of Burma is worse, more cruel, more corrupted and abusive… etc than Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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