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Keng Yaik should release a paper on national water policy together with studies government had commissioned to accompany the publication of two water bills tomorrow to allow for meaningful public consultation
by Lim Kit Siang
He said the public would be given about a month to give their views before the two bills are presented to Parliament for first reading next month at the end of the current budget meeting, with the second and third reading of the two water bills scheduled for the next parliamentary meeting next year.
Together with the two water bills, Keng Yaik should release a paper on national water policy together with studies the government had commissioned on the water situation in the country and the respective states to allow for meaningful public consultation to take place.
It will not be helpful at all as well as against the Prime Minister’s pledge of open, accountable, transparent and good governance if Keng Yaik withholds from the public all the relevant studies and reports which the government had commissioned on the national water problem in the past two decades – especially as all these reports and recommendations should be regarded as public property in the era of information-society and knowledge-economy.
A government policy paper to accompany the publication of the two long-overdue water bills is most necessary as Keng Yaik has claimed that the government had changed the earlier policy of water privatization and federalization which he had announced at a FOMCA forum in July last year.
At the Parliamentary Opposition Leader’s Roundtable Conference on Water Services in June this year, the Deputy Secretary-General II of the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications, Teo Yen Hua, had also intimated that the Ministry was not proceeding with its earlier proposal for water privatization and federalization.
However, many questions which were raised at the June Parliamentary Roundtable on Water Services are still unanswered nearly six months later, such as:
What are the reasons and conditions for the RM2.9 billion Federal Government funding of the Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) water privatization of Selangor/Kuala Lumpur/Putrajaya which includes a RM1.34 billion bailout of Selangor government water debts when the 30-year concession was signed on December 17 last year?
Although Keng Yaik has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to establish a transparent and integrated structure for the national water supply services, including the establishment of a consumer forum similar to the Water Voice in UK to ensure greater participation by the public in the water services industry, it must be pointed out that there had been very little transparency, consultation and public or parliamentary participation in the past one year in the process of restructuring the national water services industry.
It is a basic flaw to believe that there could be a transparent and accountable national water services industry when the whole process to enact the two water bills is so completely lacking in transparency, accountability and meaningful participation or consultation, whether of MPs, NGOs or the public at large.
Keng Yaik must not just talk about consultation but must have the mindset, commitment and patience to make a success of public participation and consultation in the restructuring of water services industry and not expect MPs, including from Barisan Nasional, to continue to be mere “rubber stamps” in Parliament as in the past two decades.
This is why when Keng Yaik finally makes public the two water bills tomorrow, he should also make public all the recommendations, reports and studies on the water situation which the government had commissioned in the past two decades, starting with a full list of these water studies, reports and recommendations.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman