Minister writes to Selangor chief minister seeking to resolve water impasse

PETALING JAYA: The Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister has written to the Selangor mentri besar asking for a meeting to look into resolving the impasse over the water restructuring deal.

Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, in the letter dated Thursday, also asked Azmin Ali to rethink his decision to allow the Master Agreement to lapse.

The minister asked that an officers-level meeting be held between Selangor and the Government.

"At this moment, the ministry continues to engage with the Selangor government to resume talks and extend the cut-off date of the Master Agreement.

"The ministry is still very much committed to ensuring the success of the agreement on the restructuring of the Selangor water industry," the ministry said in a statement.

On Monday, Azmin announced a decision to scrap the plan to restructure the water industry after the deadline for the deal expired. The decision has raised alarm bells because experts believe it might worsen Klang Valley water woes.

The Selangor government has requested for a third extension expiring on April 9 to iron out matters with the Federal Government on the issue.

Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd, in a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, said Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Air Selangor) - a Selangor government entity created late last year to facilitate the RM9.65 million (S$3.6 million) deal - sent it the written request.

Puncak Niaga, Selangor's biggest water concessionaire, is mulling over the request.

Asked whether the Government would invoke Section 114 of the Water Services Industry Act if the impasse could not be resolved, the ministry said this was an option.

"But this is an instrument of last resort when negotiations fail and national interest is jeapordised," it said.

Section 114 allows the minister to take over operations of the water assets and oversee production.

According to the ministry, legal recourse was also an option because the agreement signed on Aug 1 last year was irrevocable.

"But we are confident the Federal and Selangor governments can iron out the dispute, especially since Selangor has indicated its willingness to meet and discuss," it said.

On reports that the Government insisted on taking state land, where 26,000km of water pipes are situated, the ministry said this was never a central issue to the implementation of the Master Agreement although the agreement had defined water assets to include such land.

Azmin earlier told the Dewan Rakyat that the Federal Government had reneged on the deal by demanding the land for free.

He argued that the agreement covered only the pipelines and assets and did not include state land.