Selangor wants judicial review of minister’s ‘powers’ on water issue
KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Selangor will seek a judicial review of Datuk Seri Peter Chin’s ministerial powers after the energy, green technology and water minister said his hands were tied in the Selangor water deadlock.
On Tuesday, Chin responded to Selangor’s threat of a judicial review by saying it was not in his jurisdiction to “terminate the water concessionaires’ contract” or to order that they agree with the “restructuring of the state’s water industry”.
Selangor executive council member Dr Xavier Jayakumar today dismissed Chin’s refusal to intervene, saying the state legal advisor will assist in filing a judicial review.
“What’s clear to us is that it is not that he has no power as a federal minister, but his power has no influence over the companies owned by Umno-Barisan Nasional cronies,” Jayakumar said in a statement today.
“We see Peter Chin only as an ‘errand boy’ to Umno-BN, and it would be best if he resign from his position as federal minister immediately,” he added.
The Pakatan Rakyat 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 taking over the state in 2008.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim 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.
But Chin has said his power was to “only co-ordinate and ensure there is constant supply of water,” adding that “it is up to Khalid if he wants to bring me to court.”
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”. It further state such action “shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or questioned in any court”.
The law requires the centralisation 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 companies 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.
The other two concessionaires are Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Konsortium Abass Sdn Bhd (Abass).
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 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.