Anwar: Selangor water deal not cast in stone

anwar ibrahi

(MM) – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today insisted there is still wriggle room in Selangor’s water deal with Putrajaya, despite Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s previous declaration that it was “irrevocable”.

Explaining that only aspects that were expressly stated as “irrevocable” could not be undone, the PKR de facto chief said the other areas of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) were not legally binding.

“The MoU is an MoU… we still have time before the agreement is sealed,” Anwar, who is Selangor economic advisor, told reporters here after officiating PKR’s media centre here.

“It is only irrevocable if specific provisions state so. Other provisions are still an MoU.”

MoUs are often expressions of intent signed between two or more parties when they do not wish to yet enter a legally-binding or formal agreement.

But the PKR de facto leader conceded that he has not personally viewed the actual document, and that he will do as soon as possible.

When asked to comment on Rafizi Ramli’s claims regarding the agreement, Anwar said those were “legitimate concerns” that will be addressed once he had studied the document.

“Difference of opinions are allowed in PKR…. we talk about democracy, we cannot be giving gag orders to our party members,” he explained.

Earlier today, PKR’s Rafizi alleged that the hastily-signed water deal between Selangor and Putrajaya was not only lopsided and possibly illegal, but will lead to an inevitable spike in water tariffs statewide.

The PKR chief strategist said such deals must be presented to the state executive council before they are agreed and cannot be left to the unilateral decision of the state chief minister.

Rafizi said other discrepancies in the MoU also led him to believe that the deal was not only rushed through without proper thought but could eventually backfire on the state government, affecting consumers.

Under the MoU, Selangor will take over the operations of four water concessionaires — Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Bhd (Syabas), Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Konsortium Abbas Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Holdings Bhd (Splash) — for RM9.65 billion, and will place these under the state-owned Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Sdn Bhd (KDEB).

Rafizi said the state government’s takeover of water assets would be funded by federal-government-backed bonds.

The deal also says that the land and water assets will be leased back to the state’s water supply operators. And in order to meet debt obligations arising from the bond issuance, the rental rates on the lease may have to rise.

The higher rental would translate into higher water tariffs, he predicted.

Rafizi also said the deal was lopsided, citing key terms that only bind the state government.

According to the MoU, construction of the long-opposed Langat 2 treatment plant is deemed “binding and irrevocable”, while the valuation of water assets is still subject to negotiation, he said.

Rafizi said that Khalid needs to explain the deal in greater detail to ensure that the state government had not been short-changed.

Khalid has been summoned to explain the water deal to PR de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sometime this week.