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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Water deal: SELCAT must bell the cat

Azmin or Anwar need not direct SELCAT to probe allegations against Khalid.
selcat300SELCAT, the Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency of the Selangor state government, was formed when Pakatan Rakyat (PR) came to power after the 2008 election. As its designation suggests, it is meant to be the Selangor people’s entrusted body in the state government to root out any whiff of corruption or impropriety in the government and the state.
Throughout the sorry episode in recent months involving the previous Menteri Besar (MB), allegations and insinuations were made by PR leaders against the former to justify the “Kajang Move”. While the PR leaders seemed totally embroiled in their political shenanigans, they overlooked the implications of their political actions on the intended function of good governance institutions they themselves had created when they came to power.
They finally succeeded in getting rid of Khalid Ibrahim without having to reveal to the people the evidence on which their allegations were based. They did not even make a police report or send a memorandum to the MACC. Khalid made the report for them. Most unfortunate of all, SELCAT did not say a word. Nor did the other members of the Executive Council for that matter.
That is costly for the people of Selangor because, if there was questionable conduct by the previous MB, no one has been made accountable for the alleged pilfering of the peoples’ money.
Now we have been told that PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has directed the new Selangor MB, Azmin Ali, to divulge the list of companies that profited from the deals under his predecessor. Among the deals that will come under scrutiny is the water restructuring exercise that Khalid finalised in the last days of his administration.
The federal opposition leader claimed he has discovered that there were companies profiting from such deals. Earlier this month, Khalid cemented Selangor’s water deal with Putrajaya that will allow the state to take over the existing concessionaires and pave the way for the Federal government to build the Langat 2 treatment plant previously opposed by PR. The allegations against the previous MB in the water restructuring are among the subjects of the former MB’s defamation lawsuits against PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
It is because this is an issue of public interest that SELCAT should be the proactive initiator of this public accountability exercise. It does not need to be coaxed or directed by the new MB or the PKR de facto leader to spring into action. We do not live in a feudal system in which a Great Leader calls the shots. Rather, we have elected a parliamentary democracy with its select committees, including one for competency, accountability and transparency.
SELCAT’s work should not be a witch-hunt but an effort to ensure that citizens get what they deserve. It will be expected to do a thorough job of this investigation and its terms of reference should not be to try to pin a charge on the previous MB but to give us a full report on the whole water deal to reveal if there were interested parties – not necessarily linked to the previous MB – rooting for any of the water concessionaires. For all we know, this might well reveal the real motives for the “Kajang Move”.
The sickening episode over the toppling of the previous MB should be a lesson to SELCAT not to be a selective investigator at the beck and call of political masters, but to be an effective watchdog for the people of Selangor.
Kua Kia Soong is SUARAM’s Adviser

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