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Saturday, October 15, 2016

SABAH WATERGATE – MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: ‘THE AMOUNT INVOLVED IS UNBELIEVABLE’

THE amount involved in Sabah’s watergate scandal is unbelievable.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114mil worth of assets –RM53.7mil in cold cash stashed in houses and offices – from two senior Sabah Water Department officials on Oct 4.
The duo were investigated for alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for RM3.3bil federal-funded projects channelled to the department since 2010. Two others – a Datuk businessman who is a brother of one of the officials and an accountant – were also arrested.
Six days later, MACC traced RM30mil stashed in foreign banks and another RM30mil in 127 land titles for housing, agriculture and commercial.
That’s not all.
MACC also seized nine vehicles worth RM2.7mil, an assortment of jewellery worth RM3.64mil and designer handbags worth RM500,000.
The following Tuesday (Oct 11), three Sabah Water Department employees “voluntarily” surrendered about RM1mil allegedly taken in the process of approving water projects under the RM3.3bil federal allocations.
When you go out of the state capital, you’ll find Sabahans depending on rivers, streams, ponds, wells or rain for their daily needs.
What do we tell M. R., a 34-year-old Rungus housewife from Kampung Bongkok in Pitas, about the Sabah Watergate?
Since she was born, she has relied on wells, rivers or ponds in the jungle to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, and on rainwater for drinking and cooking. Daily, she has to walk a few kilometres to carry 10 litres of water back to her house.
Her water woes worsen when there is no rain for weeks.
“The villagers will be suffering, especially getting water for drinking and cooking,” she said.
“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.
“That’s what is heartbreaking. We have been asking for piped water for our village. But the excuse they give to us is the source of treated water in Pitas town is about 28km from our village,” she said.

“If the funds meant for water projects were used properly, we would have clean water supply for which we have waited for many decades.”
What do we tell M. J., a 37-year-old Bisayah civil servant from Kampung Sukai in Beaufort about the Sabah watergate?
There is a water pipe that runs through M. J.’s village. However, no water flows in the pipes and yet the villagers are billed for it.
“The pipes were installed in 2010. We had water for about one year and then it went dry, maybe because of leakage,” he said.
Now many villagers rely on the blue water tank they got during elections.
“When there is no rain, some of the villagers have to buy water from a town about 30km away for drinking and cooking,” he said.
“For other uses, the villagers get murky water from wells and a polluted river along a mangrove swamp.”
“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.
“As a true Sabah-born I’m extremely disappointed. The people’s first call is not delivered because of greed. If only a portion of the money were distributed, the villagers would not be thirsty for the promises made by politicians.”
What do we tell N.V. H., a 49-year-old Chinese businessman from a suburb in Tawau town, about the Sabah watergate?
Once a week, there is a water cut lasting three to 12 hours in his residential area. During the previous El Nino season, there were 12-hour water cuts on alternative days for two months.
With the constant water cuts in Tawau, he had to install two 400-gallon stainless steel water tanks and pneumatic water pumps at his home. He also had to install two 100-gallon water tanks and automatic on-off water pumps at the ground floor of his shop and another 400-gallon water tank and pneumatic water pump at the first floor. The total cost is RM16,000.
N.V.H.’s household has never experienced water woes, as supplies from water tanks last for five days.
“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.
“Of course I’m angry when I come across all these water scandals. But we can’t do anything about it,” he said.
What do we tell M. S., a 47-year-old Bajau Sama managing consultant from Kota Belud, about the Sabah watergate?
The shortage of clean water in his district is unexplainable, he said.
“What’s your comment on the Sabah watergate?” I asked.
“There is an abundant water source from Mount Kinabalu, flowing through rivers across Kota Belud. The rivers are full of water yet it has failed to be converted into clean water,” he said.
The water supply covers about 30% of the villages in the district and the rest depend on untreated gravity water.
“Sad to say that some villages have a piping system but no water. The water department implements piping projects in every election. Yet the clean water shortage is here to stay,” he said.
I pray that the MACC’s investigation reaches to the top. And that those who are responsible will pay for their greed.
– ANN

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