Malaysia: Water Rationing as Political Tool?

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.

Related Stories:

Malaysia Makes Gays Invisible

The Future of Water

China’s Growing Environmental Movement

Photo Credit: Tony Jones


Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

Malaysia has water shortages because of over de-forresting to grow oil palms. Corrupt governments used this as a tool to manipulate voters in Selangor. But also the UN/world bank financed a water treatment plant in Singapore in the 1960ties to treat water coming from Johore state (Malaysia) to stop Malaysia from controling water supply. Now Singapore is controling Johore's water, Malaysia actually has to buy their own (treated water) back, I know very well, I lived in SGP as an expatriate married my wife in the Malaysian state of Johore, we stayed on in SGP for 5 years. Every weekend we visited my in laws, we made sure we had a shower before we departed from SGP. Sure we had to have a dribble at our destination at times, it is still the same. Living in Australia now, I can only afford to send my wife back every 2 years to see her family, but conditions have not changed.

Kate Bates
Kathleen B5 years ago

No to corporate control of water. Water is a necessity of life, and to make it for profit is like playing with dynamite.

Elaya Raja
Elaya Raja5 years ago

so sad..

Howard C.
.5 years ago

Water is vital to life, restricting access to it rates amongst the more serious.'crimes'. Luvenia's post regarding people being prosecuted for collecting water really worries me, if this is to stop any individual controlling the supply of water then that is a good thing (I guess that a large land owner might have some success), if instead it is simply a method of ensuring who controls the water supply then it really is a step too far.

Michael Kirkby
.5 years ago

Too many dams disrupting the natural flow of the estuaries. Don't forget that the headwaters of five of the world's major rivers originate in Tibet which China controls. The Chinese are in the middle of a massive daming project throughout the region. Talk about a power play. Water is the next oil and he who controls a major source is king.

Dr Clue
Dr Clue5 years ago

Sounds like "My way or the dry way"

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago

sadly noted

FYI Sorry friends,my profile is down (7/26/12) until care2 support
resolves their server issues.

Leia P.
Leia P.5 years ago

we are all screwed

Bukkiah G.
Bukkiah G.5 years ago

James T. & David N. Did you even read the article?

This is about the federal government controlled, government owned monolith company in Malaysia conspiring to falsely make the state government of Selangor which is another political bloc in the country look bad in the lead up to elections.

There is NO private company. If there were a private company, they would likely want to stay out of it, rather then calculate the political math and pave their path to future GOVERNMENT appointments.

PPK wants to save money, so for the moment they are the better. BN wants to spend lavishly so they can siphon on money to their friends. Cowgate anybody? French Submarines anyone?

Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago