Syabas, the sole water company of one of Malaysia’s richest state, Selangor, announced this month that water was running low and they might need to start rationing the resource. Most critics of the company and the government believe that this announcement is a political tool to buckle confidence in the oppositional political movement in Malaysia.
Elections are set for next year in the country and Selangor remains at the heart of the political battle. Malaysia is currently run by the central coalition government, but in 2008 an opposition movement won power in the state of Selangor, making it a decisive swing state for political power. Tensions are running high and Syabas looks to be taking a stance with the Prime Minister and the central government.
The ruling coalition of the country is using the water crisis spurred on by Syabas to prove that the opposition government in charge of the state, which is host to multinational corporation Panasonic, cannot perform adequately, and cannot provide the population with basic resources.
Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, stated last week that the country cannot be a world leader if it cannot resolve the water issue and that the people of Selangor must “choose a government that can do it [solve the water crisis]“.
Syabas does have official connections to the ruling government. The water treatment company is part of Puncak Niaga Bhd. The chairman of that company, Rozali Ismail, is the treasurer for the central party’s Selangor branch, Reuters reports.
Along with accusing the oppositional government of being incapable of resolving the lack of water in a country that has seen heavy rainfall this year, the federal government also claims that the Selangor government has endangered water resources and development by refusing to build an expensive water treatment plant.
The war of words between Syabas officials and oppositional Selangor government officials has run deep over the last few weeks. State leaders posed for pictures in front of brimming dams to illustrate the wealth of water in Malaysia during this especially wet year, while Syabas continued to show images of rundown, low-capacity water treatment plants in Selangor.
The current state government wants funding to upgrade two existing water plants, stating that the federal government’s warnings about water shortages are off the mark and grossly exaggerated.
Opposition MP, Tony Pua, conluded that the water “crisis” is politically motivated and not based on realistic water consumption models. He stated:
They want to influence the course of the elections. They have a monopoly over water resources and are holding the people to ransom.
This last point perhaps brings back the most basic reality, that populations in Malaysia face the threat of severe water rationing during this political battle and into the new year when elections are set to be held.
Photo Credit: Tony Jones