Petronas-Sudan land dispute simmering since Dec 2020, says Wisma Putra

Malaysia, in expressing concern regarding the issue between Petronas and the Sudan government, reveals that the saga surrounding the Petronas Complex in Khartoum has been going on since December 2020.

The matter, however, escalated in recent days after the Sudanese transitional government said it planned to seize the Malaysian national oil company’s assets, including the Petronas Complex.

The complex also houses the Malaysian Embassy, which is still in operation.

Daily Sabah reported on Oct 5 that the land where the Petronas Complex is based, was acquired and registered under Nada Properties Co Ltd – Petronas’ subsidiary in the African nation.

The action stems from the Sudanese government’s move to review agreements and recover assets that were allegedly acquired through “illegal means” during the previous administration. It is doing this via the Empowerment Removal, Anti-Corruption and Money Retrieving Committee. Some have labelled the move as political.

Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, in a statement this evening, said the Malaysian government was extremely concerned over the issue.

“Since the issue surfaced in December 2020, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been working closely with Petronas, including through our embassy in Khartoum, to resolve the matter, the statement read.

“To date, the ministry has exerted multiple diplomatic efforts to address the issue, including summoning the Sudanese Charge d’ Affaires (for the second time), to Wisma Putra this morning, to convey our concerns.

Wisma Putra’s Undersecretary of Africa Division Amarjit Singh (left) speaking to Sudanese Charge d’ Affaires Omer Oushek at Wisma Putra this morning.

“We will continue to closely monitor developments on the issue in safeguarding Malaysian interests in Sudan.”

The ministry urged the Sudanese government to honour the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Treaty, in force, between Malaysia and Sudan.

“Additionally, as the complex also houses the Malaysian Embassy, the Sudanese side is also urged to observe the sanctity of a diplomatic premise, as provided for under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961.

“Despite the commencement of arbitration proceedings initiated by Petronas, the ministry remains hopeful for the timely and amicable resolution of the issue, with the view of preserving the longstanding brotherly relations between Malaysia and Sudan.”

Petronas issued a statement regarding the matter on Oct 7, stressing that the land and complex were obtained “in accordance with rightful applicable laws”.

Its joint-venture company, PetroDar Operating Company (PDOC) had sought legal recourse to cancel a wrongful warrant of arrest issued against its former officers relating to trade union claims made against PDOC.

Petronas, in another media statement yesterday, said this matter was unrelated to the ongoing legal proceedings to reclaim Petronas’ rights over the land and the Petronas Complex.

The company has been in Sudan for 20 years. It remains to be seen if Petronas will eventually pull out from the nation, following this episode.