(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): Malaysia is in danger of being reduced from a first-rate nation near developed nation status into a third-class nation facing problems about providing basic needs of its people like clean air and water because of complacency and sheer incompetence of government leaders and officials.
During the last meeting of Parliament, I had asked why Malaysia is faced with an environmental crisis despite all the environmental plans and strategies of the government, to the extent that Malaysia is in danger of suddenly being reduced from a first-rate developed nation into a third-class nation where the people cannot enjoy basic needs like clean air and water.
There was of course no proper reply or response from the government. At one stage, the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Abu Bakar Daud said that the water woes was the "price of development", that it was the result of pollution by industries at Sungai Langat, that the people should be patient and that even he, a Deputy Minister, had gone without water for a day.
It would appear that the Deputy Minister thought that his answer was adequate to justify the water shortage crisis in the Klang Valley.
The water woes faced at present by 1.8 million people in Klang
Valley is not the "price of development" but the "sins of misdevelopment",
the failure of government as well as the result of the complacency and
sheer incompetence of government officials - or to sum up, the lack of
good governance in Malaysia.
The Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environmentís answer is an example of such complacency and lack of good governance. The 1.8 million people in Klang Valley who have been suffering every day in the past three months and donít know for how long more because of the critical water shortage supply are not interested that a Deputy Minister also went without water for a day.
They want to know how a nation which aspire to fully developed nation status could be so incompetent as to allow such a major water crisis to erupt without any contingency plan and how all resources are being mobilised to reduce the hardships of the people.
Just asking the people to be "patient" is not an acceptable government response to the water crisis or the haze disaster.
This is why the Council for Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance has organised this forum on the water crisis shortage, where political leaders can speak up, the government and the relevant authorities responsible for water to present their version of the story, and to enable the people themselves to give their views,complaints and grievances.
I have sent invitations to the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Abu Hassan Omar, to attend this forum to have a hands-on session with the people to explain the latest on the water crisis and to hear the peopleís voice, complaints and grievances concerning the three-month old water shortage crisis. I also suggested to them that they should arrange from representatives from the relevant departments and entities, like Puncak Niaga Sdn. Bhd. to enlighten the public about the water crisis.
I regret that the Works Minister and the Selangor Mentri Besar have failed the Mahathir test when he recently announced that Ministers in the country cannot remain in their air-conditioned offices, but go down to the ground to meet and hear the peopleís grouses and grievances.
It is even more regrettable that Puncak Niaga Sdn. Bhd., which had earlier informed us that they would be sending a representative to this forum, had backed out completely.
The water crisis - among the latest in a series of crisis in Malaysia - has highlighted the need for greater government responsibility, accountability and transparency and greater freedom of expression to allow the people to hold the government to higher standards of government performance.
The water crisis in the Klang Valley could have been averted if the relevant authorities at both the Federal and State Governments had been far-sighted and taken proper steps to provide for contingency plans for a situation which was not completely unexpected.
In fact, warnings had been sounded many times in the past of an impending water shortage crisis in the Klang Valley but the authorities did not bestir from their smugness and complacency to do what is expected of a responsible government.
It was reported in the Sun today that the 1.8 million Klang Valley residents suffering from water rationing are in for another shock - hefty accumulated water bills.
During the water shortage crisis, water meter readers have been put into service as tanker drivers or for other tasks in water distribution.
Once the rationing ends and water supply returns to normal - and thatís when the meter readers will resume rounds - residents will face water bills going back to March.
Selangor Waterworks Department deputy director V. Subramaniam confirmed that billing had stopped since rationing started in March.
I would call on the relevant authorities, especially Pucakniaga, to waive water charges to the people affected by the water rationing for the whole period of the water crisis. This will be a bona fide gesture by Puncak Niaga Sdn. Bhd to show its contrition for the failure to anticipate and avert the water shortage crisis.