Koon Yew Yin
The official and Government friendly printed media has been carrying column after column on the “water crisis” in Selangor during the past few weeks. Readers will have noticed that the finger of blame for this so-called “crisis” has been pointed towards the Selangor state government and the larger Pakatan Rakyat coalition. The prime minister and his Barisan colleagues have made repeated charges that Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has failed to take care of the interests of the people of Selangor and accused him of allowing a water shortage situation to develop.
In his latest salvo, Najib has said that Selangor’s water crisis can be resolved. According to him,
“It cannot be that the Federal Government is unable to resolve the water problem in Selangor. We can do it”
He also added that “we have to wait until the time comes when the people of Selangor make a choice and choose a government that can do it.”
This statement by the Prime Minister shows how dirty and unscrupulous the BN government is prepared to be in its attempt to stay in power.
Even by the low standards of the BN’s electioneering during the past 50 years, this latest election ploy is quite remarkable. No other prime minister or cabinet in our political history has attempted to make so much political capital out of a basic need of the rakyat such as water.
With the elections due soon, it is evident now that no sector or area of life in the country is exempt from being made a political football by Barisan.
The public though is not fooled one bit by this cheap election tactic engineered by the political and economic interests associated with previous state government to win back the state of Selangor by playing on the fears of the public and by spinning a fairy tale on the lack of water in the dams.
This latest piece of political spin also suffers from the disadvantage that most people in the country are fully aware of the back ground and root causes of Selangor’s water predicament.
Selangor Water Problem Created by BN
When Najib argued that it cannot be that the Federal Government cannot resolve the water problem in Selangor, he conveniently forgot to add that in fact the water problem was created entirely and solely by the Federal Government.
It is a fact that the concession agreement for Syabas was approved by the Federal Government in 2005. Earlier, the Barisan Nasional government privatised the water industry to four different companies from 1996 onwards resulting in wastage and mismanagement, with the Selangor case the worst of the cases.
It is important to note too that in December 2009, the federal government provided a RM320.8 million back-loaded, interest-free unsecured soft loan to Puncak Niaga, the holding company of Syabas to settle their debts. In other words, an expensive bail out at public expense.
What Others Have Written
Members of the public have also written to express their concern though none of this ever appears in the print media. In December 2010, at the height of the Selangor state government’s attempt to submit a memorandum to the Agong over Selangor’s water issue approaches, the salary of Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor’s chief executive officer was hotly debated over micro-blogging site Twitter.
In particular the readers were posting comments about the salary of SYABAS’s Rozali Ismail, who earns some RM425,000 a month, 19 times more than the salary of the prime minister, at RM22,826.65 a month.
“If UMNO’s brand of Ketuanan means paying its GLC CEOs RM425,000 per month, then I also want!” shouts one named ‘anthraxxx’.
A twitterati calling himself ‘fickryyaacob’, suggested that Rozali may have helped fund UMNO’s election campaigns in the past.
“Is every payment for a litre of water flow(ing) to UMNO? Are you funding UMNO’s election funds?” he asked (http://en.harakahdaily.net/index.php/berita-utama/1877-twitter-fun-as-syabas-ceos-fat-salary-becomes-focus.html)
More recently, Nat Tan has written an excellent post in Malaysiakini analyzing the crisis. I cannot agree more with his conclusion that the water issue is in reality a crisis of corruption (see http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/204258)
Water Gods Angry With Barisan
A few weeks ago when water rationing appeared a distinct possibility in Selangor due to the long drought, the Barisan leadership must have been congratulating itself that they had victory in Selangor state in the bag.
This is because Barisan would have been able to use their formidable spin machinery with assistance from Syabas to turn the people’s water shortage frustrations on Pakatan. We can be sure that the hundreds of pictures and hours of television programming would have appeared focusing on the lines of people queuing for water in Selangor. The negative impact of the issue on the Pakatan and its propaganda value to Barisan would have been priceless.
Unfortunately for the Barisan and Syabas, the water gods have not cooperated with them. Although there was a possibility of water shortage about a month ago in view of the prolonged drought, the heavens have opened up in Selangor during the past few weeks and the rivers and dams are full.
Now that the water gods have turned against them, my advice to the Barisan is simple: repent your crooked and corrupt ways. Again, I like to repeat what I wrote last year on the issue
If this is an example of the New Economic Model (NEM), then God help our country. All Malaysians, whether from Selangor or from other states, must demand full transparency and accountability on this issue.
It is the height of economic foolishness to award concessions or contracts without open competitive tenders. This warning is for all the 131 projects that are being envisaged under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) including the MRT project which is supposed to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation.( http://english.cpiasia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2088:empty-promise-of-reform-in-sgor-water-service&catid=211:koon-yew-yin&Itemid=169)
Now that the rivers and dams are full again, I predict that our Barisan chameleons will sing a different tune. We can expect them to declare victory over Khalid and claim credit for the ending of the water crisis in the state.
by Koon Yew Yin, the philanthropist tycoon.