Selangor Water Crisis: Politicising Water

Mad rush for water at USJ4, Subang Jaya
Today is DAY SIX that taps have run dry for  about 360,000 account holders or 1.6 million residents in the most developed state of Selangor. DAP supporters have gone quiet in residents’ WhatsApp groups while those who will be celebrating Deepavali are screaming for vengeance. Some are already asking “Mana Hannah Yeoh?” while Azmin Ali who, under his tutelage Selangor has seen the most of water disruptions, has reneged on the usual promise of announcing the biggest exposé on those he blamed this current water crisis on.

The MP for Kelana Jaya, Wong Chen, has since appeared on WhatsApp groups trying to appease voters. The following is his message:

Message from MP Wong Chen this morning 27 Oct.

Good morning from Parliament. We have been sitting the last few days up to 9.30 pm every night. The budget session is the most important session of the year but this year the government slashed some 8 days of sitting and as such we are forced to go beyond our 5.30 pm sitting by four extra hours a day to 9.30 pm every day.


This morning I want to talk about the water crisis affecting 1 million residents in Selangor. I have been following closely the water crisis in Selangor, affecting a large part of my constituents in Subang Jaya. YB Hannah Yeoh has been updating regularly, she is on the ground distributing water and engaging residents. Residents are going into their 5th day without water. And we had a water crisis barely a month before.


In Parliament, I bumped into Minister Wan Junaidi and also separately the Deputy Minister Hamim on several occassions. I keep asking for their quicker action. They keep saying that Selangor must also do their bit. I have also relayed some of my ideas to YB Zuraida to pass on to the MB. 


Wan Junaidi do not believe the current pollution crisis to be an act of deliberate political sabotage. Deputy Minister Hamim, who is an engineer and someone I enjoyed working with on the TPPA (when he was Deputy Minister of MITI), will not speculate but says that the problem is not new. The federal government has resources but water is a state matter.


I am of the view that with the economy slowing, more and more companies will try to cut costs by dumping pollution straight into the river. 


Enforcement in Malaysia has always been a challenge. A widely held view is the enforcement officers are either stretched thin, overworked or at the other end of the spectrum, just plain corrupt being paid by polluters to turn a blind eye. 


If enforcement officers are not effective then we have to bring in the accountants. 


The obvious solution is to track historical records of industrial waste output of each factory and counter check with their disposal costs. If a factory is found to have slashed spending substantially on disposal of industrial waste in the last year, then we can assume that they are engaging in illegal dumping. A major discrepency in the accounts should be a basis for a full investigation and raid by enforcement officers. 


The state should also set up a benchmark of waste output for each industry to red flag any unusual data volatility. Setting up patrol units along the rivers is not going to help as much as sending in the accountants.


Bottomline is this. If the economy deteriorates, we can expect more and more water cuts stemming from increased pollution activity.


Irate residents will not listen to excuses or causes. Understandably, they just want water and they want this crisis to not repeat. As such Selangor must dramatically improve its emergency water delivery system. We need more water tanks and we need delivery to be on schedule and to be regular. 


We need to also beef up security monitoring at our rivers. We need night time road blocks to monitor all suspicious trucking activities. More importantly is we need new people to lead such enforcement. A fresh start with new officers.


We need to bring in the accountants. We need all factories in Selangor to disclose their waste inventory. And we need to catch the culprits, severely punish them to end this cycle of water cuts.


Lastly, I beg the residents to also empathise with the authorities. You will not find a harder working ADUN in Malaysia than YB Hannah Yeoh. If you see her on your streets at midnight distributing water, give her a pat on the back.

Wong Chen may be the sanest of the PKR lot probably due to being an idealist more than a politician. But he is saying nothing new, not a lot, and has nothing much to offer.

Firstly, it is obvious that as an MP he is not aware that all matters pertaining to land and water belongs to the respective states. Had he known this he would not have approached Wan Junaidi or his deputy Hamim.

As advised by industry players as early as 2011, the Selangor State government should gazette water catchment areas and implement the Langat2 Water Treatment Plant project. The State government did not do the first and delayed the second suggestion until it was too late.

Secondly, the economy is not slowing. Slowing down means that there will be negative growth. Wong Chen is probably not aware that even the World Bank says that the Malaysian economy is growing at a slower rate in 2016 but will pick up in 2017 and 2018.

Even in the 1990s when the economy was vibrant and our growth rate exceeded eight percent, business owners were dumping industrial scheduled wastes into rivers. It has nothing to do with our economy. It has all to do with our mentality and screw-all attitude.

Enforcement is lacking, no doubt, but stretched thin is the more than likely case. They can’t all be corrupted just as not all bungalows without swimming pools are cheap. So we just do not have the numbers needed to police based on a personnel to area ratio. And it doesn’t help when motormouth Tony Pua wants to trim down the civil service if he comes into power!

Even tracking of industrial waste output needs the manpower to do it. You can’t just sit in the office, tap on some keys and expect the numbers on the screen to tally with what is being produced in the real world.

Security monitoring of our rivers would go back to two things: manpower and gazetting water catchment areas! Why is there a need to repeat this over and over again? Everything points back to those two!

Hannah Yeoh the hardest working ADUN in Malaysia? I have seen better-working ones even from the DAP back in the 1970s. Distributing bottled water can be sub-contracted out to Bangladeshi workers. A hardworking ADUN would be screaming in the Dewan for more manpower to enforce gazetted water catchment areas. Not seek political mileage and benefitting from the misery of others!

ESSCOM’s Failure: Who To Blame?

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If you think it is disgusting that armed men believed to be from the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf could infiltrate our borders of the east coast of Sabah last November, shoot dead a tourist from Taiwan and kidnapped his wife, then again a few days ago taking a tourist from China and a resort worker away, guess what is even more disgusting? That the man above, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, had the cheek to say the following (as quoted by The Star:

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Who are we to blame then, Wan Junaidi?

May I remind the Deputy Minister that ESSCOM was created on 7th March 2013 to ensure the security of the ESSZONE is taken care of in a holistic manner so there would be no recurrence of the Lahad Datu incursion and of other similar incidents. Maybe I can provide the Deputy Minister with a statement by the Prime Minister on Police Day 2013 that was posted on ESSCOM’s website.

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ESSCOM is an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department to undertake the enhancement of security in the ESSZONE defined as 10 districts from Kudat to Tawau spanning 1,733.7 kilometers, to prevent recurrence of any form of intrusion by unwanted foreign elements.  The method that should be employed to affect this is by applying the Defence-in-Depth concept that I wrote about in March of 2013 when ESSCOM was first formed.  The military has worked with the police in a support role on numerous occasions starting with the First and Second Emergencies of 1948-1960 and 1968-1989 periods respectively, in various UN missions such as to Cambodia, Liberia, and Timor Leste. The military also supported the operations conducted by the police in Ops Daulat last year, and since then the military and police have conducted basic recruit training jointly at the Army Recruit Training Centre in Port Dickson to enhance better understanding between the two.  Therefore, the issue of one not being able to accept orders by the other does not arise.  In any case in peacetime, the command of the police prevails and the military plays a supporting role, and this has always been case.  The Immigration however, does not have any experience in operational security as they only act as filters to immigration, and not experienced nor trained in deploying combat assets.  It is no secret that the southern Filipinos have no respect nor fear for our Immigration Department. They only fear our police and the military.

I don’t subscribe to Wan Junaidi’s remark that the resorts should close down. They have been in existence even before the formation of ESSCOM. They are still located within our littoral zones. Should they not be protected? Should there not be security forces stationed at these resorts as there is on Mataking, Mabul, Sipadan, SiAmil and other islands?  If the resort owners do not cooperate, what is the problem? Who makes the policies? Can’t action be taken against resort owners who do not respect policies? Stop giving stupid excuses, Wan Junaidi, and start behaving like a Deputy Minister.  If ESSCOM cannot even get the buy-in because it does not have the will to enforce and execute policies, it should be disbanded and leave it to the police and military to run an enhanced version of Ops PASIR. The Immigration Department should just go back to stamping passports and weed out illegal immigrants.

So, who is to be blamed, Wan Junaidi?  Who is to be blamed for appointing a non-combatant to take charge of a combat situation? Who is to be blamed if as a result of the appointment two armed incursions have taken place resulting in the kidnapping of three people and the death of one?  I will blame Wan Junaidi for making stupid statements, one after another, and blame the government for making him a Deputy Minister.