Sunday, 27 July 2014
OPPOSITION POLITICIANS RIP INTO EACH OTHER OVER SELANGOR'S WATER CRISIS
Many members and supporters of opposition parties, especially the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People's Justice Party (PKR of Anwar Ibrahim) as well as opposition non-governmental organisations (NGOs or more precisely political pressure groups), tend to forget key political lessons of history - i.e. that economic conditions such as poverty and practical hardships faced by people have been what drove violent upheavals such as revolutions or dramatic sea changes peaceful electoral choices which have brought to power authoritarian governments such as the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy.
Many of these politicians and NGO members are from an urban, English-literate, middle-class background and most of their constituents are likewise urban, English-literate and middle-class, who being relatively comfortable economically and quite often wealthy, so have the relative luxury to PRIORITISE matters such as corruption in government, issues of transparency in government, cronyism, nepotism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom on the Internet, human rights, efficiency of the civil service, the murder of the Mongolian model Altantuya, the controversial Scopene submarine purchases and so on.
This urban, middle-class nature has been pretty obvious in reports of how candidate of these opposition parties campaign in elections and byelections by citing issues prioritised by urban, English-literate, middle-class people, even when campaigning in rural areas where people are generally poorer and less privileged than their urban counterparts. Unlike in the industrialised countries where farmers generally have large farms and are generally quite comfortably well off, farmers, fishermen and other rural people in developing countries such as Malaysia are generally smallholders or small operators, as well as petty traders and workers who are struggling to eke out a living and who prioritise their economic survival ahead of other issues.
This was borne out by different attitudes over the controversial book Interlok, which was standard reading in schools some years back. Its critics objected to Interlok on the grounds that it insulted members of Malaysia's Indian community, and whilst I have not read the book myself, I won;t argue about that.
However, the online news portal Free Malaysia Today reported that during the by-elections in Tenang, a small town in a rural area, its journalists asked soem Indians there about the book Interlok and some said they had not heard about it, whilst those who had said that they were more concerned about their economic survival than to have time to bother about a mere book.
Then when the opposition candidate loses to ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front coalition) candidate, they blame the voters there fro being "ignorant", "stupid", "bought out by handouts of money", "sheeple", and so on, and this is the main reason why whilst I do not support the Barisan Nasional and have never voted for them, at the same time, the attitude of these opposition politicians, opposition NGOs and their supporters has made me lose respect for them.
The Barisan Nasional, especially its major coalition member, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) knows this and caters its populist policies to win over rural voters, as well as urban lower-income voters, which is why it has won every election since Malaysia's independence in 1957.
Coalition partner parties within the Barisan Nasional are parties of the wealthy and no doubt that the Barisan Nasional government has delineated the electoral boundaries (i.e. Gerrymandered) the electoral boundaries such that they have won more seats in parliament, especially by relying on rural seats. This is pretty obvious from how an urban constituency of 100,000 voters gets one seat in parliament, whilst a rural constituency of even 4,000 voters gets one seat. The opposition also blames the Barisan Nasional for promising subsidies, land grants and so on to rural voters if they win and the opposition and its supporters have also alleged that some Barisan Nasional candidates have even paid voters in rural areas say RM50 each to vote for them. Whilst the delineation of electoral boundaries is obvious enough to any observer, I've not seen the vote buying myself, so can't confirm nor deny that.
Now instead of whining and moaning about rural voters voting for the Barisan Nasional and even condemning them for their (the opposition) candidate's loss in rural areas, opposition parties should get off their high horse and offer rural voters better policies which will serve them, than the Barisan Nasional does. Something which will hit rural and urban lower income people hard economically is the introduction of the GST (Goods and Services Tax in April 2015 and the promise to abolition of the GST if the opposition wins the Federal Government is an issue which I'm sure will work in the opposition's favour, along with promises of measures which will assist rural people and the urban lower income group to survive economically.
However, whenever I've mentioned this to opposition politicians or supporters they whine and moan that they do not have the resources to match the Barisan Nasional. Hey! I'm not talking about delivering on such promises NOW but IF THEY WIN in the Federal Government in the general elections.
The only exception would be the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), since they are largely rural or small twin-based, though their objective is to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State with Islamic economic principles, which contain elements of social justice for poorer members of society and Islamic law.
Now that I've outlined the background to my argument, let's turn to a largely urban problem which could well unseat the opposition from its control of Selangor State - i.e. the water crisis and prolonged water rationing, problems which we had to endure until water rationing was ended effective 30th of April but which could be re-introduced again in this prolonged hot and dry spell.
This issue has got leading members of the DAP going after Selangor State Chief Minister (Menteri Besar), Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, a PKR man, over has handling of Selangor's water crisis. The DAP, PKR and PAS are members of the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact), the unofficial opposition coalition.
Before that, this article in The Star of 30th April, just when water rationing ended.
Published: Wednesday April 30, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 30, 2014 MYT 9:18:15 AM
Water woes flooding cyberspace
PETALING JAYA: Stop talking and just give us our water! That seems to be the broad sentiment of residents in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur who are sick and tired of the prolonged water rationing.
Over the past weeks, they have been flooding cyberspace with their complaints and angry cries of despair.
Napsiah Wan Salleh posted on Facebook that she could not care less about what anyone had to say about the matter any more.
“I just want the authorities to get their act together so that water rationing can end for good.”
Jocelyn Lee asked: “Are you doing something to solve the problem? Or just waiting for every end of the month to say: No rainfall into water catchment area, no improvement in dam, we have to extend the water rationing. Ridiculous!”
Gathrin Govindarajoo said the water rationing exercise had affected health adversely.
“Cannot take it any more. Children having hand, foot and mouth disease and adults having irritation.”
Like many others, Sher Cullen urged Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to stop the rationing.
“We want clean water to our house. Full stop!”
Shashi Netto said the Selangor government must pull up its socks and do the right thing: “Stop the mismanagement and let the water flow from our taps.”
Lee Mei Lin, who described the rationing as “sheer madness”, asked: “May we know what the actual problem is?”
Pritapal Singh chided those who said that people were lazy for not collecting rainwater.
“If both husband and wife are working, who will collect rainwater? If I’m working in Petaling Jaya and my house is in Klang, must I rush back home to do it?
“Which company will allow employees to do that? We’re not lazy, just helpless,” he added.
Angry netizens found little comfort in reports of slight increases in dam levels.
“If the rationing continues, what is the point of telling us the news? It’s like putting a chicken drumstick in front of a famine victim and telling him not to eat it,” said Ivy Lam.
More recently, the DAP's Tony Pua slammed Tan Sri Khalid and over the water crisis.
I'm glad Tony has spoken up against Khalid and I hope he will do the same on the proposed Kinrara-Damansara Expresway (KIDEX).
Published: Friday June 27, 2014 MYT 11:25:00 AM
Updated: Friday June 27, 2014 MYT 12:36:57 PM
DAP slams Selangor water disruptions
PETALING JAYA: Heads must roll if water disruptions in Selangor continue and the state is forced to implement another round of water rationing.
"There can be no more excuses.
"It was just 10 days ago (June 17) that the state government provided the guarantee that there will be no need for water rationing when the dry season hits in the next few weeks, exacerbated by the El Nino phenomenon," Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said in a statement Friday.
"The fact that serious water disruptions are occurring over the past week, so soon after the 'guarantee' provided by the state government, only exposes a lack of seriousness in tackling the issue and sheer incompetence on the part of the relevant authorities," the Selangor DAP chairman added.
"Such a degree of incompetence cannot be tolerated because it has embarrassed the Mentri Besar and the state government, as well as severely damaged Pakatan Rakyat's credibility."
Pua said on June 11, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had provided assurance that the state will not repeat its water rationing exercise despite a possible dry spell in the next few months due to the El Nino phenomenon.
"There is currently no plan for another water rationing exercise. The state government will work to ensure that this does not happen," Khalid had said.
Among the measures implemented to address low water supplies were 20 pumps placed in nine disused tin mining ponds to supply 800 million litres of raw water daily to Sungai Tinggi and Sungai Selangor.
According to Khalid, the Selangor water management board (Luas) had conducted drill tests to make sure all the pumps were functioning properly, Pua said in his statement.
Another to issue such a guarantee was state executive councillor in charge of Youth and Sports, Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairib, who said the state had enough water to last for at least five months, based on water levels at retention ponds and dams.
Yet, Pua pointed out, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) issued a warning early this week to residents in Gombak, Petaling and Klang of possible water disruptions due to alleged low-levels of raw water in Sungai Selangor on Thursday, affecting up to 157,000 users.
Pua termed it a shocking and unacceptable development, and said Selangorians were right to be upset over the deteriorating situation after suffering a two-month water rationing exercise since the end of February.
"At that time, it was arguably excusable because the relevant authorities were taken by surprise by the harshness of the unexpected dry weather," he said.
Pua called for the punishment of incompetent parties as there was "no longer any valid reason" for the lack of preparedness to address low water supplies, seeing that the state water authority, Syabas and the state government were fully aware of the upcoming seasonal dry weather.
He also echoed a suggestion by Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming for the immediate establishment of a high-level water task force - comprising Khalid, key elected representatives and state officials - to find and review solutions to the state’s water woes.
In addition, Dr Ong had also urged the state government to establish contingency plans, such as dedicated water disbursement teams in disruption-prone areas to provide sufficient resources.
"It cannot be more strongly emphasised that these measures must be urgently considered and executed to relieve the burdens of the suffering rakyat while we await the improvements on water management expected after the state successfully takes over the operations of the Syabas and the water industry," Pua added.
The DAP's Ronnie Liu also hammers Khalid for not taking alternative actions to solve Selangor's water crisis despite warnings about it since some years back.
Published: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 11:38:56 AM
Liu rains 'bullets' on Khalid over water issue
by a. ruban, yip yoke teng, vincent tan, sira habibu, lee yen mun, mazwin nik anis, AND valerie chin
PETALING JAYA: As Selangor braces for more dry days ahead, former state executive councillor Ronnie Liu trained his guns on Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, accusing the Mentri Besar of being negligent and questioning the haste in which he agreed to the Langat 2 project.
Liu, who was state chairman in-charge of local government from 2008-2013, said the Mentri Besar had enough time and resources to prevent water rationing exercises like the previous one.
Speaking to The Star, Liu said experts had told the state executive council that Selangor had enough water resources – ponds, rivers and underground pools – to be self-sufficient.
He also claimed that Selangor had an underground water reserve almost the size of Singapore under oil palm plantations in the state and that membrane technology could be used to produce clean water.
Another option was to turn wetlands taken over through a debt recovery exercise into natural retention ponds.
“Tapping underground water reserves will not be difficult because we only have to pay the plantation owner to lease the land.
“Other countries are already using membrane technology at their water treatment plants because this is the most efficient way of getting treated water,” Liu said.
He said the 1,000ha of wetlands adjacent to Sungai Selangor were natural retention ponds that could be utilised by pumping the water into the river during dry season.
He said the state should also conduct cloud-seeding operations early instead of waiting until the last minute.
Liu suggested that the state engage a group of experts to handle the issue.
“Khalid has been harping about low water level at the dams to justify water rationing. This is misleading because treatment plants draw water from rivers, not dams.
“Dams are like fixed deposits while rivers are like current accounts; dams release water only when river water levels run low but there will always be water flowing from rivers to the sea,” he said.
The state, he added, had about 30 water treatment plants that could be upgraded to meet any increase in demand.
He said treatment plants had to supply clean water at 5% to 6% above the daily demand and had always taken into consideration the need for higher demand.
So technically, he said, the issue of insufficient water supply should not occur.
“We suspect the real reasons behind the inadequate water supply are burst pipes, pump errors, wrongly set water pressures or even political intentions.
“I have to question Khalid’s haste in agreeing to the Langat 2 project,” Liu said, adding that Selangor did not have to depend on Pahang for water.
He said he was perplexed as to why the Mentri Besar had not implemented any of the methods shown to the state executive council that would have prevented water rationing, despite the state having a RM3bil cash reserve to fund these.
Responding to Liu, Selangor Infrastructure and Public Amenities Committee chairman Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi conceded that the last round of water rationing happened because the state had not thought of utilising other water resources.
But he denied the move was politically motivated.
“We do not deny the need for Langat 2 for the development of Selangor,” he said.
He said the state had identified nine former mining pools that could meet Selangor’s demand for four months and that weekly analyses of water samples from the pools had shown them to be safe for use.
Dr Ahmad Yunus said underground water caches had also been identified in Kuala Langat while other alternative sources were being tested, but the state was prioritising the mining pool option for now.
He assured consumers that water rationing would not happen in the near future.
The Langat 2 project referred to below is the name of a processing plant which will treat raw water from a dam in Pahang State on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, channelled to Langat 2 through a 45km tunnel through the mountains separating the west from the east coasts. It's a Federal Government project involving private consessionaires, so invokes political differences between the Pakatan Rakyat run Selangor State Government and the Barisan Nasional run federal Government.
Anyway, most people in Selangor, including myself couldn't care less as to how the Selangor State Government comes up with the water as long as we have water. If they have to draw upon underground water then well and good, provide the water is clean and safe. After all, for many of our grandparents and even parents had to rely on well water for their needs. Below is a well in one of the heritage town houses in a tourist area of Malacca town, south of here. This was in 2008 and the pipe you see going down into the water, suggests that the water is still being drawn from this well.
BTW. I wonder where Michael Lai has disappeared to after he resigned as Chief Executive Officer of Packet One Networks (P1) in 2013. The loss-making WiMAX wireless broadband provider was subsequently acquired by Telekom Malaysia.
Perhaps I should go spend some time in Muar, northern Johor State, where he's from and might bump into him. Anyway, that's another story.
Digression aside, Barisan Nasional coalition partner, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) blames the opposition DAP for the water crisis as well.
Published: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 3:07:00 PM
Updated: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 3:13:00 PM
MCA: DAP should share blame for Selangor's water woes
by akil yunus
PETALING JAYA: Selangor MCA has criticised DAP's Tony Pua for attempting to absolve his party from any responsibility in the poor management of the state's water resources.
Its state liaison committee secretary Ng Chok Sin said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP's press statements criticising Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and his administration were akin to an empty vessel making the most noise as DAP was also part of the Pakatan Rakyat alliance governing the state.
"DAP must also shoulder responsibility for the poor management of water supply, instead of looking for a scapegoat.
"If Pua has not been sleeping, then his outburst is an attempt to shirk responsibility as he has conveniently forgotten that senior exco members in the state government consist of DAP's elected representatives as well," Ng said in a statement Saturday.
He said it was the duty of DAP's elected representatives to convey the grievances of the rakyat on this issue to the Mentri Besar.
"Pakatan has to be collectively responsible for these problems. It is the 'heads' of all incompetent state administrators that 'must roll'," he said in response to Pua's demand on Friday that "heads must roll"over the continued water disruptions in the state.
He also reminded Selangor residents that it was Pakatan's initial reluctance to enter into an agreement on the construction of the Langat 2 treatment plant that had led to the present situation.
"If Khalid had a conscience, he should have promoted the water plans. But now it is too late, with more than one million residents around Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya having to suffer a water crisis," he added.
Now Chief Minister Khalid hits back at Tony and Ronnie.
Published: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 2:44:00 PM
Updated: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 3:39:12 PM
Pua and Liu need to be taught about state's water industry, says MB Khalid
by a. ruban
PULAU INDAH: Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has hit back at two DAP leaders who took the state government to task over recent water supply disruptions in several districts.
Referring to statements by Petaling Jaya Utara MP and state DAP chairman Tony Pua and former executive councillor Ronnie Liu, who had both blamed the state government and him for the issue, Khalid said the duo needed to be taught about the water industry in the state.
Reiterating that it was unfair to blame the state, Khalid said he was dumbfounded that Pua and Liu, being senior party leaders, failed to understand the water restructuring exercise.
"I am shocked that Liu, despite being an exco (member) for one term, does not know of the water restructuring exercise and the work the state has been doing to ensure continuous supply water for the people.
"Anyway, I am sure Upen (the state economic planning unit) and Luas (Selangor Water Management Authority) will be glad to teach Tony Pua and Ronnie Liu on what the state has done and why Syabas is to be blamed," he said after handing out donations at Masjid Sultan Abdul Aziz here in conjunction with the Ramadan month.
When asked to comment on Pua's questioning of the state government's "guarantee" on assuring continuous water supply for the next five months, Khalid said it was still a promise but admitted that it would be a hard one to keep if Syabas did not cooperate with other water players.
"Our calculations show there is enough water in our dams and rivers but the treatment plants belong to Syabas and if they refuse to work, it is very hard to get the job done.
"Therefore, it is unfair to simply condemn the state government.
"If the state takes over their (Syabas) water assets and six months down the road, you see another round of water rationing, then by all means blame the state and myself," Khalid said.
Pua, in a statement earlier Saturday, said the fact that water disruptions occurred after the state had guaranteed there would not be any rationing exposed a lack of seriousness in tackling the issue.
"Hence, when water shortages occur within days after the guarantee issued, does that not make the Pakatan Rakyat government and its elected representatives look like complete fools?" he said.
Khalid had assured the public that the state would not repeat the water rationing exercise despite a possible dry spell in the next few months due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.
On Friday, Liu also accused Khalid of being negligent and questioned the haste in agreeing to the Langat 2 project.
Liu, who was state chairman in-charge of local government from 2008-2013, said the Mentri Besar had enough time and resources to prevent water rationing exercises like the previous one.
On Thursday, Syabas issued a statement, saying that due to a lowered output from the Sungai Selangor Phase 3 treatment plant, more than 700,000 households in Petaling, Gombak, Klang/Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur were to be affected.
Following improvements in the level of Sungai Selangor, which supplies raw water to the SSP3 plant, Syabas, on Friday, said the affected areas have begun to see supply recovery in stages.
Syabas corporate communications and public affairs general manager Priscilla Alfred could not be reached for comments.
And Tony hits back at Khalid.
Published: Sunday June 29, 2014 MYT 11:01:00 AM
Updated: Sunday June 29, 2014 MYT 11:20:12 AM
Pua to Khalid: Stop blaming Syabas
PETALING JAYA: A responsible and caring Pakatan Rakyat government should do much more than just “blame Syabas” for the water crisis, according to DAP MP Tony Pua.
Instead of arranging a lesson for him on “what the state has done” and “why Syabas is to blame”, he said it might be more important for Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and state officials to pay a visit to the families queuing up with pails to draw water from the supply tanks.
Pua said that in response to the issues that he had raised over the past two days on the water crisis, Khalid had jibed that he needed to be taught on the state’s water restructuring exercise and “why Syabas is to blame”.
According to Pua in a statement on Sunday, residents would be extremely keen to hear about “what the state has done” and “why Syabas is to blame."
More to come
Syabas is the private consessionnaire which has the rights to manage the distribution of treated water in Selangor State.
Involved in all this mess is the privatisation of public utilities begun in the 1980s when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammed was prime minister and such privatisation began soon after Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister of Britain visited Malaysia, and this is testimony to the bankruptcy of the neo-liberal, von Hayekist, Chicago School, privatisation policies begun by Thatcher in Britain and President Ronald Reagan of the United States.
The whole capitalist world is mired in an economic crisis it cannot get out of is thanks to policies of privatisation, de-regulation, globalisation and open borders begun in the 1980s.
Whilst I fully support bringing Selangor State's water resources and utilities under state control, it's a matter of right timing and the Selangor State government should have been willing to compromise with the Federal Government for the sake of Selangor residents, until the Pakatan Rakyat manages to win the Federal Government and be in a position to make sweeping changes,such as to even seize water and other privatised resources without compensation.
Instead, by trying to acquire back Selangor's water resources when it's not in a powerful enough position to do so, has resulted in public dissatisfaction and anger which could result in it losing in the next elections.
Until then, it must either find alternative water sources independently of the Federal Government or if it can't, then be willing to compromise with the Federal Government for the time being.
NOTE: For those unfamiliar with Malaysia's political scene, Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) is a coalition of three opposition parties -i.e. the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the People's Justice Party (PKR) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), whilst ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) or National Front which controls the Federal Government is a coalition of 13 parties across Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.