Rabu, Jun 22, 2005

Protest outside Parliament against water privatisation

Beh Lih Yi and Kuek Ser Kuang Keng

A 90-minute protest against the proposed water privatisation plan was held outside Parliament House this morning,with the 200 protesters urging Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to stop the move.

Two hours later, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Dr Lim Keng Yaik announced at a press conference that the scheme has been scrapped and that state governments would continue to manage such services through companies that should be public listed.

Commenting on the protest, Keng Yaik told the group to stop wasting their time in staging protests since the water privatisation plan has been scrapped.

“Don’t waste your time. What you (the NGOs) suggested we have followed, so why do you continue to demonstrate against your recommendation?” he asked.

Nevertheless, he said he was willing to meet with the coalition to gather their views on the water supply management.

“Yes, we can meet, but not during a demonstration. I will prepare a good atmosphere for them to discuss reform in the water services industry,” the minister said.

Handbills distributed

Among others, the ‘Coalition against Water Privatisation’ demanded that two bills - the Water Services Industry Bill and the National Water Services Commission Bill - should not be tabled during the current Parliament sitting.

The protestors held placards and chanted slogans such as ‘don’t rob people’s rights’, ‘don’t burden the people’, ‘don’t steal our water’ and urged the minister to quit. No untoward incident was reported but a handful of policemen monitored the event.

The group also distributed leaflets and handbills to those in cars passing by, including those of ministers, deputy ministers and government officials.

Keng Yaik did not stop to take the handbill but Works Minister S Samy Vellu stopped his car to take a copy of the ‘10 reasons to stop water privatisation’ handbill.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Shafie Mamal later handed over a memorandum against the water privatisation to Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.

The five-page memorandum was endorsed by 127 non-governmental organisations, a number that was described as “a record” by coalition co-ordinator, water expert and economist Charles Santiago.

Kit Siang said he would try his best to stop the tabling of the two bills while PAS Youth chief Salahuddin Ayub, who was also present, urged the government to reconsider the formation of a select committee to hear the people’s views.

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