REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (20-26 July)

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Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”


Pic source: Prophet6/sxc.hu | Water, water everywhere

While the bickering over water in Selangor runneth over, the prospects of a solution remain no more than a disheartening trickle.

Last week, REFSA Rojak highlighted the Selangor state government’s intention to take over Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) due to the company’s alleged failure in protecting consumers’ interests.

However, Putrajaya has pulled the flush on the state’s plans, claiming that “substantial and procedural” matters have not been met by the administration to allow for the takeover.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin agrees with the state government that water rationing is not necessary at the moment – a stand which contradicts Syabas’. This should have put to rest Pakatan’s suspicion that the federal government is using UMNO-linked Syabas to ‘manufacture’ a water crisis, in order to hasten construction of the Langat 2 water treatment plant. Unfortunately, Muhyiddin announced that the building of the Langat 2 plant will proceed, even without the approval of the  state government, to address the “critical” level of Selangor’s water issue.

The state administration argued that Selangor has more than enough water as its seven dams are full. Syabas has also come under fire for being uncooperative in providing facts and figures to back its claims of a water crisis. Coalition for Sustainable Water Management reveals that, based on the 2011 National Water Resources Studies, the projection for water demand per capita in Selangor is inflated . Konsortium ABASS Sdn Bhd  which runs a treatment plant, also came out to say that there is no crisis.

If Syabas’ proclaimed water woes are unfounded, why the insistence on building the Langat 2 facility? State executive council member Dr Xavier Jayakumar said the RM8 billion project smacks of cronyism and is a waste of public funds. Indeed, among the bidders eyeing the Langat 2 tender is George Kent Consortium which is currently embroiled in the Ampang LRT Line extension scandal.

Is Selangor truly parched, or is this another case of privatisation gone wrong? Let’s hope that the politicking storm subsides soon to reveal clear skies of truth.

Is Seda so easily duped, or is it afflicted with apathy?

The dark clouds of mystery surrounding the solar energy distribution project seem to have dissipated. The gloom, nonetheless, persists.

Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) came clean about the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) online application process fiasco that saw former chief secretary Mohd Sidek Hassan’s daughter Suzi Suliana being awarded a large chunk of the solar energy quota.  To make matters worse, her companies had reportedly failed to meet the critical finance and technical requirements. SEDA however claims that it is legally powerless to disqualify the said companies or to redistribute the energy quotas.

SEDA revealed that bidders had exploited a loophole in its online system to apply repeatedly through various companies to land a larger share. It even admitted that it was aware of these manipulations, but did not have time to trace the owners of these companies. Opposition MP Tony Pua rejected SEDA’s lame excuse, saying that it would not take more than two hours to trace the owner through a search with the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

SEDA announced that it is in the process of revoking some of the contracts, but did not confirm if they were those awarded to Suzi’s companies.  Seda’s lack of foresight in drawing up the application regulations may be spilt milk, but not finding a way to prevent a repeat of the incident would just lead to an accusation of cronyism.

License to clean – Bersih is legal!

You can’t blame certain parties for fearing the law. After all, it may not work in their favour. The Home Minister’s order for Bersih 2.0 to be made illegal has been overthrown by a High Court ruling. Judge Rohana Yusof viewed the Home Minister’s decision as “tainted with irrationality”.

Playing politics in crime prevention

The Dark Knight rose to a collapse of public order last week. In a midnight screening of the much-anticipated summer blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, USA, a man wearing a gas mask opened fire on people in the cinema. Twelve died. The shooter, a University of Colorado student who was studying the genesis of madness, reportedly told the police that he was The Joker.

But no one was in the mood to laugh. Americans were engaged in a far more somber debate on gun control.  While the right to own firearms may be a subject that is alien to most Malaysians, the issues that the Aurora shooting had raised hit close to home.  We face similar threats in our country. Crime stories continue to plague our social media newsfeed and daily conversations, and some of us have been traumatised by encounters with thugs and thieves.

Hence, for the sake of safety we proceed to cage ourselves. We fence up our neighbourhood, hire security guards, and lessen outings at night. The movement Safer Malaysia however, pointed out that we are not addressing the root of the problem; we are not deterring those who rob, rape and attack.

When the government was urged to take the subject of crime seriously, the Selangor police chief warned Malaysians not to politicise the issue. The same message was sent out to Americans attempting to discuss gun control after the shooting. Time’s Michael Grunwald however, asserted that sometimes there is nothing wrong with politicizing a tragedy. He said that politics should be “connected with real-life pains”, and if politicians think that their policy ideas can prevent the next Aurora, then there is no better time to speak up.

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Support Safer Malaysia – join them in a candlelight virgil on Wednesday (Aug 1), 9pm, at the One Utama Central Park. If you are unable to attend, you can also snap a picture of yourself with a candle and share it on the Safer Malaysia Facebook page.

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!



Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.
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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 31 July 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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2 Responses to REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (20-26 July)

  1. when will business in this country be run as proper businesses instead of all this hanky-panky….sigh

  2. Pepper Lim

    Nice!