KUALA LUMPUR, 14 Jan – The Barisan Nasional administration is once again putting the interests of the rakyat last, as Prime Minister Najib Razak and Peter Chin continue to defend their crony Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor, Syabas, while blaming the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government for the endless water woes in the state.
Syabas, the water concessionaire in charge of water distribution to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, has failed miserably in doing its job, causing hundreds and thousands caught in constant and rampant water shortages, likely to last until Chinese New Year.
DAP National Publicity Secretary Tony Pua said this clearly shows that profit for BN cronies is more important than the sufferings of the man-on-the-street.
“While Najib espoused ‘transformation’ in his speeches over the past four years, no transformation could be seen as BN’s privatisation cronies are not only fully protected by his administration, they have continued to prosper at the expense of the people,” Pua said.
According to PKR Strategic Director, Rafizi Ramli, the smearing stint by BN is a “politically-motivated sabotage” of Selangor’s water supply system, aimed to incite hatred against Pakatan Rakyat which currently is in power in Selangor.
“If they want to play political games, game on. They have been holding the public ransom on the water issue,” said Rafizi.
Last weekend, Najib unabashedly took the Selangor government to task, warning the state government to “stop blaming the woes on others.” The Prime Minister further fuelled the drama by saying that he is “saddened to see people living in flats having to lift buckets of water to the upper floors.”
Strangely, Najib’s smear campaign conveniently ignores that fact that it was the previous BN-led state government that holds the responsibility of privatizing Selangor’s water industry back in 1996.
Najib claimed that BN is not playing politics, despite guaranteeing that the water problem will be solved as soon as possible only if the people give the mandate to BN in the upcoming general election.
Najib said so in his speech during an event at Tesco Semenyih, held on the same day with the mammoth Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat rally at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.
In the same breath, Najib stated that BN is unable to resolve the crisis because the Selangor PR government “won’t give the development order” for the multi-billion ringgit Langat 2 treatment plant.
Syabas termination is the solution
Pua said, “The current water crisis in Gombak, Ampang and Kuala Lumpur has nothing to do with Langat 2 and has everything to do with Syabas’ inability to maintain its existing water supply services.”
“How is it [that] Langat 2, which is only scheduled to be completed in 2014 at the very earliest, could prevent the current water crisis in KL and Selangor… it is beyond our comprehension,” he added.
Selangor Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, responded by suggesting to terminate the Syabas concession, due to their extremely poor performance — a move the state government believes will “rectify the shortcomings” in the state’s water distribution management.
Peter Chin, Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water in Najib’s government, unsurprisingly, rejected the proposal outright, choosing to defend and deflect criticisms laid on Syabas instead.
“The Selangor government cannot take over Syabas for it violates the conditions stipulated in the water concession agreement,” said Chin, claiming that the state government would be “liable” if it terminates the contract.
Pua called Chin’s excuse “ridiculous”.
Pua, also the Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara, added, “The excuse by the minister demonstrates the extent to which the BN Government is willing to tolerate transgressions by its cronies, even if the people are suffering from extended water services disruption.”
“It appears that even if Syabas was to default on all the terms of its concession agreement, the concession agreement cannot be terminated.”
‘Rakyat first’, BN?
The previous Selangor BN government signed a concession agreement that allowed Syabas to increase tariffs by 37% in 2009. The tariffs were increased by 25% in 2012, and are scheduled to undergo an additional increase of 15% in 2015. The tariffs are to undergo further increase every three years.
The evidently poor maintenance of its water treatment facilities by Syabas, notably in the recent months, prompted the current Selangor state government to propose the termination of the Syabas concession agreement.
According the concession agreement, however, such termination can only be carried out with the consent of the federal government.
“The Syabas concession agreement can be terminated if Syabas failed to fulfil its part of the bargain,” Pua commented.
“The only reason why the termination cannot proceed is because the BN government is dead against it and will protect Syabas at all costs. It is clear that the BN Government is beyond redemption and is unable to change itself to prioritise the interest of the rakyat.”
The water supply failures in Selangor and KL are expected to continue to as late as early February, coinciding with the Chinese New Year celebrations, one of Malaysia’s biggest holiday periods.
Areas in Selangor and KL currently plagued by the water supply crisis are Gombak, Wangsa Maju, Pandan, and Ampang. – The Rocket