The Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to federalize water management – refer to Select Committee before a second reading vote by Parliament for detailed study and extensive public consultation or DAP will consider legal challenge of its constitutionality
- at the DAP Sitiawan forum on “2004 Constitution Amendment Bill to hand over state water rights to Federal Government”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): In the past several years, in keeping with the country’s development, Malaysians have ascended to demands for a higher hierarchy of rights, advocating and developing the right to development, right to health, right to housing, right to environment, right to education, right to higher education, etc.
It is most shocking that while aiming to become a fully developed nation under Vision 2020, the country has been retrogressing, to the extent that we are now reduced to having to articulate and defend what is one of the most elementary and fundamental human rights – the right to water.
This is the terrible irony and dilemma presented by the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 which is to be rammed through the Dewan Rakyat in a two-day special sitting beginning on Monday.The Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to amend the State List to empower the Federal Government to take over the water jurisdiction from the state governments is most improper, unparliamentary and unconstitutional for at least three reasons – the most fatal being in violation of Article 76 of the Federal Constitution which limits the power of the Federal Government and Parliament to trespass and transgress on powers and prerogatives of state governments and state legislative assemblies.
Article 76(1) of the Federal Constitution stipulates three circumstances where Parliamernt can amend the State List in Schedule Nine of the Federal Constitution, viz:
As the provisions of Article 76(1) (a) and (b) do not apply here, the question is whether Article 76(1)(c) has been complied with, i.e. whether any State Assembly in Peninsula Malaysia had requested Parliament for the amendment to the State List to surrender the state’s sole prerogative powers on water to the Federal Government and to allow the management of water resources to be federalized.
The Perak and Penang State Legislative
Assemblies have not met to surrender their sole prerogative powers on water
or requested Parliament to amend the State List to federalize water
management, and as far as I
know, no other State Assembly in Peninsula Malaysia whether under Barisan
Nasional or PAS had requested Parliament to effect any constitutional
amendment to the State List empowering the Federal Government to take over
the water jurisdiction from the state governments.
The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Gani Patail, should advise the Prime Minister that the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to amend the State List should not be proceeded with at the special parliamentary sitting next week, unless and until Article 76(1)© had been complied with and there had been requests for such constitutional amendment first emanating from the State Legislative Assemblies.
The DAP Perak State Assemblymen should make their protests heard loud and clear at this violation of the constitutional prerogative and rights of the state enshrined and entrenched in the constitution, and be in the forefront to protect the Perak State Constitution and the state rights if the Barisan Nasional State Assembly representatives are not prepared to do so.
I have asked the Perak DAP Legal Bureau with its team of lawyers headed by Sdr. Nga Hock Cheh to study the legal implications of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to unconstitutionally amend the State List and usurp the state prerogatives on water, and to study the possibility of instituting a legal challenge in the courts to protect the state’s prerogative powers.
I am baffled as to why there is a need to convene a special sitting of Parliament for the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 to implement the unconstitutional federalization of water resources, and why it cannot wait for two months for it to be taken up at the regular parliamentary meeting, which is scheduled to meet in two months’ time on 21st March 2004.
This raises the question as to whether there is an ulterior agenda in the indecent haste to ram through the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 next week.
Malaysian water specialist, Charles Santiago, who spoke before me, has likened the water resource as “blue gold”, as privatization of water services is a multi-billion ringgit business. The 2000 National Water Resource Study commissioned by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department (which is confined to Peninsular Malaysia) estimated that the total value of the water industry in the 50-year period between 2000 to 2050 ranges from RM51.6 billion to RM77 billion – with an estimated amount of RM15.4 billion to be spent between 2000 and 2005.
Could it be that there are irresistible pressures from the 2Cs – cronies and corporations - who are not prepared for any more delays to partake in the “blue gold” bonanza which would come from the full and unfettered privatization of water resources in the country?
The Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 should be referred to a Select Committee before a second reading vote by Parliament for detailed study and extensive public consultation, particularly on water privatization and the federalization of water management.
There are many fundamental issues that must be addressed before decisions are taken on water privatization and the federalization of water management, including:
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman