Monday, December 06, 2010

Confusing Memo - what really does PR want with regard to water in Selangor?

What's new ... just another case of how undemocratic Malaysia really is. There is no freedom of peaceful assembly - and when people do exercise their universally acknowledged right, even if it was only to deliver a memorandum to the King - the police comes down hard with water-cannons, tear gas, beatings, arrest and detention...

In Malaysia, according to the law when 3 or more persons intend to gather in one place, there is a requirement that one has to first get police permission to do this. Even holding a private function in your own home requires a police permit. Of course, the police have been rather selective as to when they do exercise their power ...and 'force' to break up gatherings...

The UMNO-led BN government, when it ruled the State of Selangor privatized the processing and supply of piped water to the people of the State,. and now the new Pakatan Rakyat Selangor State government (which came into power  in March 2008) apparently wants to gain control of the processing and supply of this basic amenity.

What does the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat State government really want?

Is it only what Selangor wants or is it something that all Pakatan Rakyat States want?

Does the State want to take back direct control, and hence be totally responsible for water supply - or does it merely want to privatize it but this time maybe to companies owned by friends of Pakatan Rakyat? 

What is the Pakatan Rakyat's position on privatization? Are they for the the retaining of control and responsibility with the government when it comes to the basic amenities - water, electricity, cooking gas, sewage, roads, etc....?

Looking at the memo, I am confused 
- they seem to be in support of the Water Services Industry Act 2006 which puts control in the Federal Government - and then also talk about State Lists - do they want water & water supply,etc to come exclusively under the jurisdiction of the State?
- are they only not happy that Syabas has it and wants it back under the Selangor State government - why do they not just terminate the agreement?
- are they unhappy with the rates?

Maybe, there is a need for clarification of their position? 

Maybe, we should really be having a referendum - a signature petition of only 150,000 (or 250,000) in a State of millions is really not very convincing...[Remember this was not merely a civil society petition - but one where the MB and Selangor government played a big part - the MB was the one who handed over the memorandum to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agung]
The demonstration on Selangor water tariffs that started from the Masjid Negara this afternoon saw at least 48 people arrested.

Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah reported from Cheras general operations force police station that 52 are being held there, including PKR member Zahir Hassan.

selangor protest against syabas 20101205 police arrest 03Earlier, Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin reported that she was arrested along with 46 others; 32 protestors were loaded into a police truck and another 15 in a second.
"Out of the amount, 5 are students. There is an excessive use of force," she said.

This took place as police fired their water cannons and tear gas at the crowd in the vicinity of the Masjid, and about 300 police personnel marched into the protestors after the latter had failed to disperse despite continuous reminders to do so.

selangor water demo red shirt arrestedAt least 20 tear gas shells, possibly more, were fired to break up the protest as the procession headed slowly towards the Istana Negara as planned.

Cops 'unprofessional'
Suhakam commissioner Mohd Shaani Abdullah said their personnel noticed some unprofessional conduct by the police.

"They have to be further trained. It is not their job to mendera (attack) and maki hamun (shout abuses) at the people. This is not proper as they have to be professional in their conduct."

"This results in hatred for the police. Maybe there is no permit, but they should not shout abusive words," he said.

selangor water demo Deputy police chief of KL Amar Singh, Khalid Samad on far leftMohd Shaani said he will report the matter to Parliament.

Kuala Selangor MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad also agreed that the police had displayed an excessive use of force.

"We will bring this issue to Parliament," he said.

As for those arrested, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad (above, left) and Dzulkefly told the gathered that they will see to the detainees' release.

selangor protest against syabas 20101205 nasir hasim arrestedAccording to Zuraida, the detainees in her group of 30 are: Abdul Aziz Noordin, Afrodi Ali, Kamaruzaman Mokthar, Mohamed Hafez Mat Som, Mohd Hussin Jala, Mohd Asyraf Mohd Dawam, Mohd Ezzuandi Ngadi, Mohd Saibani Wasim, Muhammad Faiz Mukmin Abd Mutalib, Noor Azwan Ramli, Nur Hadi Mohamad, Saharuddin Bakri, Syaiful Huzaimi Mohamed, Syed Ahmad Thani Tuan Hadi, Ustaz Fauzan and Zairul Izman Othman.

Earlier this morning at around 11.30am - before the start of the protest march - PSM president Dr Nasir Hashim and secretary general S Arutchelvan (below) were also picked up by the police at KL Sentral. 

Memo delivered to Istana
selangor water demo khalid at istanaSelangor MB Khalid Ibrahim meanwhile announced in a statement that they managed to hand their memorandum on reclaiming the state's water rights, along with 250,000 signatures, to the Istana Negara press officer Khairi Abdul Rahman at around 2.15pm.

“The federal government is dismissing the importance of the water issue to the rakyat. They ought to be supporting the state government in stopping an unfair water agreement (with Syabas) that only profits the concessionaire, while the welfare of the people is totally forgotten,” said Khalid (above, in light-coloured shirt).

bloody sunday suhakam 310506 zahir hassanHe also regretted that the police had gone back on their promise to allow the peaceful gathering and made the numerous arrests.

“I urge the police to release them without further notice,” he said.
Meanwhile, former PKR supreme council member Zahir Hassan (above) who was brought to the General Operations Force (GOP) police headquarters in Cheras said that it was apparent that the police had been prepared to make mass arrests.

"There are at least four desktops and many more with laptops used by police, which are taking our particulars. Lawyers have not been allowed in to meet with us. I do not know when they will be allowed in," Zahir told Malaysiakini from the GOP headquarters.

NONE"Police have yet to take our statements. We do not know what our offence is, as they have not related it to us," he said.

Those arrested are between 16 and 60, with all of the males at the GOP in Cheras. 

Zahir said the police were in the process of releasing them after their details had been recorded.

'Arrested for wearing T shirts'
Meanwhile human rights NGO Suaram has condemned the heavy-handed police action and the “authority's intolerance to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression” that saw the arrest of even a minor.

selangor water demo cops at masjid negaraSuaram coordinator Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar in a statement this evening in particular questioned why the three PSM members were arrested before the rally, “..for wearing red T-shirts and on the suspicion that they might be involved in an illegal assembly.”

Suaram condemned the police's “brutal actions” that allegedly resulted in some injuries amongst the protestors.

“The Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar even went so far as to threaten Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim with arrest if he rejoined the rally after handing over the memorandum,” said Hasbeemasputra.

The NGO called on the immediate release of all the detainees, and is encouraging the public to write letters of protest to the government and the police “to express your strongest condemnation of the arrests and the ongoing denial of rights of expression and peaceful assembly” and to demand for “freedom of expression and assembly as stated under the Article 10 of the federal constitution”.

All 48 people said to have been arrested were released by 7.45pm, except for two persons who had failed to produce their identity cards. - Malaysiakini,5/12/2010,Water demo: Police used 'excessive force'

The Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government is seeking to rally support around its efforts to regain control and management over water in the state.

Up against them are water concessionaire Syabas and the BN-led federal government, which signed contracts with Syabas and the previous Selangor government for the distribution of water in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

After a long and protracted tussle between the two sides, the Selangor government has taken recourse to seek the intervention of the country's ruler, the Yang DiPertuan Agong Mizan Zainal Abidin.
A rally has been organised today wherehy participants will march from the National Mosque to Istana Negara, where they hope to submit the document to the Yang diPertuan Agong.
Below is the letter in full:

From: The people and the Selangor state government

Duli Yang Maha Mulia
Tuanku Al-Wathiqu Billah Al-Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Al Muktafi Billah Shah
Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malaysia

Dengan nama Allah s.w.t., Tuhan Yang Maha Pengasih dan Maha Penyayang.

Selawat dan salam buat junjungan besar Nabi Muhammad s.a.w., pesuruh Allah s.w.t. yang sangat mencintai dan menggesa umatnya berlaku adil.

Assalamu'alaikum w.b.t.
Ampun Tuanku beribu ampun, sembah rakyat harap diampun.

i. With the knowledge that basic human living is dependent upon access to clean and affordable water,

ii. With the realisation that people's expanding costs of living are steadily increasing in comparison with their incomes,

iii. With a firm opposition to misappropriation, abuse and mismanagement of power,

iv. With a commitment towards building a leadership that is transparent, responsible, efficient and respectful of the spirit and practice of Federalism;

We, the people and the Selangor state government, hereby gather together seeking the humble permission of Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku to deliver our concerns towards the issue of restructuring of the water services industry in Selangor Darul Ehsan.

Ampun Tuanku beribu ampun, sembah rakyat harap diampun.

1) Return the rights of water to the people

We, on behalf of 150,000 people of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, plead that justice is given to us by correcting the past mistakes of water privatisation, resulting in poor quality of water and water services, and with water tariff increases at unreasonable rates.
We hereby seek clean and good quality of water and water services at reasonable and affordable prices, taking into consideration the poor and low-income groups of Selangor. We call upon Tuanku to return the rights of water to the people.

2) Uphold the Water Services Industry Act 2006

We humbly request for Tuanku to uphold the spirit and aim of the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) 2006, that is to restructure the water services industry into one that is holistic and managed by the Selangor state government.
The WSIA 2006 was originally enacted for the purpose of reversing the errors made in privatising the water industry. We call upon Tuanku to remind the federal government of this.

3) Empower the people

The concession agreement signed in 2004 between Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), the federal dovernment and the Selangor State Government contains a number of ambiguities that show SYABAS is not concerned with the people's welfare, namely the water tariff increases at alarmingly high rates (37% in 2009, and 25%, 20%, 10% and 5% in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2021).
The agreement should have been discussed with the people originally as it affects them primarily. We call upon Tuanku to empower the people by ensuring that any new agreement must be discussed with the people before it is finalised.

4) Restore state government's powers

Water services falls under the 'Concurrent List' in the Federal Constitution 1957, giving both the federal government and state government shared jurisdiction over the matter.
We urge the federal government to uphold the spirit of federalism and the powers of the state in the issue of water services, instead of using coercion tactics against the Selangor government. We call upon Tuanku to restore the state government's powers.

5) End cronyism

It is the perception of the people that the federal government sides with the private sector, in this case a particular company, which is equivalent to cronyism.
It is evident that to ensure concessionaires' profitability, they were allowed high tariff rates and more than adequate federal government guarantees to loans that the rakyat has to ultimately pay for.
The rakyat has to now pay high water rates, and Malaysian taxpayers are forced to underwrite the risk of Syabas' business. We call upon Tuanku to remind the federal government of their promise to end cronyism.

With the mandate that is given by the people, the Selangor state government is committed to ensure their interests are protected. The Selangor state government ensures that the water services industry will be managed in the best manner possible for the benefit of the people through its taking over of the water services industry.

Thus the Selangor state government together with the people have placed their hopes in supporting this important motion.

It is the people's hope that this issue will be given serious attention by Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku. The people thank Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku for the attention that has been given.

Thank You
Daulat Tuanku
Dec 5, 2010- Malaysiakini, 5/12/2010, S'gor appeals to King on regaining water control

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