Peter Chin says hands tied in Selangor water deadlock
KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Datuk Seri Peter Chin Kah Fui insisted today that he cannot solve the stalemate over the transfer of Selangor’s water assets despite the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government threatening to sue him.
Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has said he would bring the energy, green technology and water minister to court if he refuses to use his ministerial powers to take the statutory transfer of the state’s water assets to international arbitration.
“Bringing me to court is not going to solve the matter because the minister has no right to terminate the water concessionaires’ contract. It is up to him (Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim) if he wants to bring me to court.
“My power is only to co-ordinate and ensure there is constant supply of water,” Chin (picture) told reporters today.
The PKR-led Selangor administration has tussled with water concessionaires in the state and Putrajaya over the valuation of assets such as pipelines, dams and treatment plants since PR took over Selangor in 2008.
Khalid told The Malaysian Insider recently he was prepared to take the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal administration to court if it refuses to bring the transfer of assets, compulsory under a federal law passed in 2006, to international arbitration.
Section 114(1) of the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) allows the minister to assume complete or partial control of water assets and business “for national interests” and “shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or questioned in any court”.
“The law gives him (Chin) the power. We will get a judicial review. The minister needs to do something but he need not act in favour of anybody,” Khalid said when asked what he would do if Putrajaya refuses to go to international arbitration over the valuation of the assets.
The Ijok assemblyman said he was waiting for a reply from Chin after writing to the minister in late April, adding that “I don’t think they are chickening out but we are forcing the issue.”
The law requires the centralising of all water assets except those in Sabah and Sarawak to make water supply management more efficient but Umno-linked water concessionaires Puncak Niaga and Syabas have repeatedly rejected offers from the state.
Both are controlled by Tan Sri Rozali Ismail, who is Selangor Umno treasurer and the 31st richest man in Malaysia, according to Forbes.
The state government has made three previous offers for the water assets. The first offer, RM5.7 billion for assets and equity, was turned down by all four concessionaires in the state, while the second RM9.4 billion offer — this time including liabilities — was rejected by Syabas and Puncak Niaga.
A third offer worth RM9 billion for a 100 per cent takeover of all four companies in January last year was also rejected.
Putrajaya has also dismissed Selangor’s valuation of RM11 billion for all the assets including the 80 per cent the state government says it already owns, saying the federal government’s Water Asset Management Company (PAAB) will only pay RM1.1 billion.
Selangor has asked the Najib administration for over a year now to allow the matter to be brought to international arbitration as the various parties cannot agree on the assets’ value.
The PKR-led state government has said that resolving the water asset impasse was crucial to continue its free water scheme and head off tariff hikes.
It currently writes off the first 20 cubic metres used by some four million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
But PR has accused the federal government of stalling the process at the expense of the Selangor public by bailing out water concessionaires with a RM6.5 billion takeover of outstanding debts owed by the companies in 2010.