Former Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin today said the state government should acquire SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd instead of setting up its own water supply operator in the state.
In a statement, he said Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian proposal to set up a new company was a simplistic way out of resolving Johor's water supply issues.
"Without providing any further information, he said this would be a better suggestion as compared to my proposal for the state government to take over SAJ Ranhill," he said.
On Aug 13, Osman revealed the state government's planned to set up a second water supply operator company to reduce its dependency on the sole water company in the state and ensure better control over water tariffs.
Besides this, the menteri besar said it will not be beneficial if the state government purchased a company that suffered depreciation in share values.
Khaled said such reasons were shallow and failed to see the issues related to Johor water supply in a holistic perspective.
"Setting up a new water company is not practical and not productive," he said.
The company will start from zero as it has no assets, no infrastructure, no staff and has a lack of resources, according to him.
It will take a long time for the company successful, he said, and moreover, the state government would need to ensure no disruption in water supply along the way.
"If SAJ Randhill's shares are cheap and depreciating, isn't this the best time to buy?" he asked.
"Has the menteri besar negotiated with them? Have they rejected the idea and stated firmly that they would not sell their stake regardless of the wish, offer and reason of the state government?" questioned the Umno vice-president.
"Or has the menteri besar from the beginning conceded defeat and assumed that SAJ Ranhill declines to cooperate and will not entertain any negotiation from the state government?" he added.
He said the state government should work harder if the water company rejected its acquisition proposal in the best interests of Johoreans instead deciding the plan was not viable.
He then asked if the government planned to close down SAJ Randhill, whose license was renewed for another three years in 2017, or would the two water supply companies operate together in the state.
It was reported that SAJ Ranhill voluntarily surrendered its concession and migrated to a new licensing regime in 2009 in line with the previous administration's aspiration of promoting policy objectives for water supply.
Khaled also demanded details and an explanation from Osman on his proposal and the challenges lying ahead.
"I stand by my position that the acquisition of SAJ Randhill is the best way out to resolve Johor water issues," he added.
"I will not allow the matter to be taken lightly by the state government as this is a serious issue for the Johoreans," he said, adding Osman's remark had opened up more questions that needed answers.