by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 20th September 1994:
The Government should suspend all sewerage fees until new and acceptable sewerage rates had been worked out.
The warning by the director-general of the sewerage services department, Lum Weng Kee that consumers must pay the sewerage fees levied by Indah Water Konsortium Sdn. Bhd. or face legal action is most uncalled for and unjustifiable.
What the Government should do is not to warn consumers that they face legal action if they do not pay the sewerage fees levied by Indah Water Konsortium Sdn. Bhd. but to suspend all sewerage fees levied by Indah Water Konsortium until new and acceptable sewerage rates had been worked out to the satisfaction of the consumers.
Consumers in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Seremban, Port Dickson, Langkawi and Labuan where Indah Water Konsortium Sdn. Bhd. (IWK) had taken over the sewerage works, have complained that the charges are too high.
The rates levied by IWK have faced strong objections, because previously sewerage services were mostly provided by the local authorities in return for property assessment payments; and in the case of commercial and industrial sewerage rates, the IWK rates are between two and three times higher than the amount charged before privatisation.
For this reason, ratepayers are entitled to feel aggrieved by the new sewerage charges and to demand that if they have now to pay this new levy, the assessment rates should be reduced proportionately.
The IWK had recently suspended its takeover of the sewerage system of 137 of the 143 local authorities, purportedly to review its sewerage rates.
The important question is whether the suspension of the IWK takeover of the sewerage system of 137 of the 143 local authorities was really to review the sewerage rates, or whether it was politically-motivated to defer the problem until after the next general elections.
The Barisan Nasional government should realise that if IWK proceeds according to its RM6.27 billion privatisation con¬tract to take over the sewerage system of 42 of the 143 local authorities by this year – including the two Penang Municipal Councils – then this, could become a major election issue in the next general elections because of the unacceptable and exorbicate sewerage fees.
Penang was one of the first, state for the IWK’s sewerage system is to start operation, but the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon must have realised that his government might just fall in the next general elections over the public uproar and outrage over the exorbitant sewerage charges.
It therefore makes good political sense for the Barisan Nasional not only in Penang but in other parts of the coun¬try, to suspend the IWK take-over of the sewerage system of 137 of the 143 local authorities until after the next general elec¬tions.
If the suspension of IWK take-over is politically motivated, then the revision of sewerage fees is just an excuse and there is no guarantee that final sewerage fees agreed to by the Government after the next general elections would be fair or acceptable to the consumers.
Consumers in areas where the IWK had taken over the sewerage system are entitled to refuse to pay the sewerage charges until there is a full and acceptable resolution of the sewerage fees which could be levied by IWK.
In fact, if the Government is sincere about the sewer¬age fees problem and not interested in deferring the problem until after the next general elections when it could, ignore public complaints, it should also suspend all sewerage fees until new and acceptable sewerage rates had been worked out between the Government and IWK, and which are also acceptable to the consum¬ers.
A mechanism must therefore be worked out – where the consumers can take an active part in working out a fair and acceptable scheme of sewerage charges – as this should be left purely in the hands of the IWK and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
Is the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh, prepared to set up such a tripartite committee to determine sewerage fees comprising representatives from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, IWK and the consumers?