By Neville Spykerman and Yoges Palaniappan (The Malaysian Insider)
SHAH ALAM, July 12 — Selangor backbenchers chief Azmin Ali lashed out today at Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for accusing the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government for mismanaging water in the state.
“This is a false accusation and made in bad faith,” said the Bukit Antarabangsa lawmaker at the Selangor state assembly today.
Instead he asked the deputy prime minister to explain to the public why the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal and its former Selangor governments had, before March 2008, signed a lopsided concession agreement which was more favourable to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) than to consumers.
Azmin said the concession agreements allow for water tariffs to be raised by 37 per cent in 2008, 25 per cent in 2011, 15 percent in 2014 and 10 per cent for every following three years.
“This agreement is sure to burden the people,” he said.
Azmin referred to media reports quoting the Umno deputy president in saying that the water situation in Selangor was critical and the state was facing a water crisis.
Muhyiddin also accused Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim of mismanaging the state and claimed that the state was facing a major deficit.
“This is false allegation made in bad faith,” said Azmin.
He said the policies of the mentri besar was to protect consumers while Umno’s leadership was attempting to protect their cronies including Syabas which was facing a financial crisis.
“Muhiddin should learn from Khalid about financial transparency for the good of the people.”
Selangor is currently allocating RM120 million annually to provide 20 cubic metres of water monthly to consumers but Azmin said the state is still able to balance its budget.
He also pointed out that Muhyiddin’s own track record in handing water management while he was Johor mentri besar was questionable.
Azmin said during Muhyiddin’s administration water tariffs were increased sharply and consumers in Johor paid the highest rates in the the country.
Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim today rubbished Muhyiddin’s claim that the Pahang-Selangor water transfer project would cause Selangor to face water shortages.
Muhyiddin yesterday said the state would not be able to pay its water concessionaires each time water tariffs or costs for processing clean water goes up.
He said the situation is critical and if no solution is found there might not be enough water, and a crisis may be on the way.
“During campaigning, Pakatan Rakyat promised the moon and the earth, they promised free water… and now they are running into a huge deficit, a huge debt,” said Muhyiddin during the Ampang Umno division meeting here.
He also alleged that Khalid knew nothing about running Selangor.
He said even if the Selangor faces water shortage, the state has other alternative water sources which can be drawn from, including underground water and treated water from rivers and lakes.
Khalid said the state government considers the recent statement by Muhyiddin as protecting his cronies.
He added Muhyiddin seems to speaking on behalf of Umno to protect the Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Rozali Ismail who had held the significant position of Selangor Umno treasurer.
Khalid said the current water services problem in Selangor is the result of privatisation conducted by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
He explained that the federal government gave Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) a back-loaded interest free unsecured RM320.8 million loan in December 2009.
“Despite this lucrative loan, Syabas is still experiencing problems in making its payment owed to the three water treatment operators in Selangor,” he added.