Malaysiakini NEWS

Terminating water supply an act of extreme cruelty

P Ramasamy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

ADUN SPEAKS | About 10 years ago, Sada (Syarikat Air Darul Aman) unilaterally terminated the water supply to about 50 former estate workers in Sungei Getah Estate (Bedong), Sungei Petani, Kedah, on the grounds that the residents did not settle their water bill dues amounting to RM22,000.

In fact, the water supply was terminated earlier, but was restored in 2009, when the local kampung committee (JKKK) reconnected the supply.

Sada's argument is that the residents failed to settle their water arrears, although the supply was in bulk and not according to individual households.

After waiting for more than 10 years and after making numerous attempts, the residents have failed to get their water supply reconnected.

Even though they dug wells to obtain water, the quality of the water remained much to be desired.

Recently, there have been cases of health problems arising from unclean water from the wells.

It was not just water alone, even electricity supply was disconnected some years ago. However, the residents have overcome the lack of power by installing power generators.

According to regulations imposed by Span ( Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara), water supply cannot be disconnected at the whims and fancies of water companies, even if there is an outstanding debt.

Lame excuse

In the case of Sungei Getah Estate, Sada did not have the decency to consider the plight of more than 50 families that were in the estate. At least Sada could have had the decency to obtain a court order before terminating the supply. It did not do so.

If it had gone the court, the latter could have considered the plight of the residents and the impact of the water termination on the health and well-being of the families.

When there was a recent attempt by the Kedah executive councillor and state assemblyperson for Bukit Selambau to apply for the reconnection of water supply, it was blocked by the owner of the 10-acre plot of land, who sent a legal notice.

If the owner is dissatisfied with the attitude of the residents who have been living in the estate for so many years, he could have commenced legal proceedings for their eviction. But to date, he has not done so.

Meanwhile, Sada, being a responsible state-based company in the water supply service, should not give an excuse that it was the owner that is preventing it from rendering water to the residents.

The Kedah government should also not give the excuse that since the residents are living on private land, it does not have the power to intervene. This is not acceptable.

I was informed that the local assemblyperson is prepared to negotiate with Sada in terms of settling its debts that were incurred by the residents before the reconnection of the water supply.

Terminating water supply to residents, even if they are living on a private plot of land, is an act of extreme cruelty. No decent government would allow such an inhuman act to take place.

But this has happened to the residents in Sungei Getah on the basis of some lame excuse.

It serves no purpose to come up with a brilliant manifesto if a basic and fundamental right, such as water supply, could not be restored to workers and their families.

P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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