The most deadly disease in Malaysia is neither diabetes nor dengue. It is corruption. Despite the fact that the 1MDB scandal has not yet been fully resolved, the public has been hit yet again with another mind blowing corruption case.
We are still reeling from the shock of the staggering RM 52.2 million seized in hard cash by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) consequent to the arrest of two senior officials of the Sabah Water Department (SWD) on Tuesday October 4th.
How could this have happened? The answer is very simple, really. Greed.
It was a bit like discovering the unlawful booty of a pirate’s stolen treasures. These two top officers of the SWD had basically obtained this stolen loot as kickbacks from government projects which were intended to improve water supplies (and infrastructure) to areas in Sabah, in particular rural districts and villages.
This money came from concessions and bribes from at least RM 3.3 billion (funds from the Federal Government) worth of contracts in Sabah.
Many of these contracts were awarded to siblings in a climate of undisguised and alarmingly unfettered nepotism. These civil servants grossly betrayed the trust placed in them. They abused their powers by monopolizing water tenders and contracts and awarding them to their siblings instead of deserving candidates or companies based on merit. They effortlessly and effectively rejected a meritocracy in favour of a plutocracy.
Piles and stacks of banknotes packed in boxes were seized from various premises – the homes, offices, and bank safe deposit boxes of these two officials. One was a 54 year old SWD director and the other his Deputy.
That is not all. The cash is thought to be merely a component of an amount which is more than double that – part of RM 112 million that these two men and their siblings have allegedly illegally obtained. Both men have since been arrested by the MACC, but it does indeed beg the obvious question – how come no one knew what was happening ? Or did others know and turn a blind eye?
How can the biggest haul ever made in anti graft history in Malaysia be uncovered overnight like this without anyone having a clue about it?
Corruption stinks the way faeces does. So why did no one smell the rot before this ?
The MACC stated that they also seized other assets such as luxury cars – a Range Rover, two BMWs, an Audi, a Ford Ranger, a Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Volvo and Nexus. 127 land titles were also seized. Bank accounts of the suspects and their families were frozen, containing RM 23 million.
The wives of the suspects also showed a vulgar display of ostentatiousness – almost 100 designer handbags were seized, together with numerous branded watches and a large collection of jewellery.
Meanwhile in Selangor we continue to have our own share of water woes, which seem to be never ending. This writer’s home together with thousands of other households in Selangor, continue to face continuous water interruption.
The cause of the most recent disruption was said to be pollution of the water supply in the Semenyih river, leading to the closure of the Semenyih water treatment plant (due to odour pollution). This led to disruption, shortage and deprivation of water to thousands of households in numerous areas such as Kajang, Cyberjaya, Puchong, USJ Subang Jaya, Taman Puncak Jalil and so on.
In the last two years, more than a million homes in Selangor have been affected. The strange thing is this – the cause has been repeated instances of pollution of the Semenyih river.
So why was action not taken before this? Apparently the recent culprit has been identified as a factory at the Semenyih Hi Tech Industrial Park. The Kajang Municipal Council (MPKJ) ordered it to be closed a few days ago. The premises and equipment of the factory were also apparently seized by both MPKJ and the Land Office.
In March 2015, a similar incident occurred whereby a water treatment plant was shut down as a result of a high level of manganese which was detected in Sungai Langat, Selangor.
In January 2013, once again the contamination of Sungai Semenyih caused a treatment plant to be shut down temporarily. An oil processing factory was asked to cease operations after the authorities found that it emitted harmful effluents into the river.
Bearing all this in mind, why is it that pollution by factories on riverbanks and near reservoirs still continues to be rampant?
Surely it is not the case that we are not aware of the dangers and health hazards of water pollution. After all, this is the water we drink!
So, should we not be more careful of its quality? Should companies not have more of an ethical or moral conscience and Corporate Social Responsibility to ensure that their activities do not harm the environment?
Once again the Selangor Waters Authority have made the unsightly discovery of many drums filled with used oil cans and filters at the offending factory.
Surely it is incumbent upon the said authority to duly inspect on a regular basis whether there are indeed any factories operating illegally near river and water sources?
The Department of Environment must also do its part in relation to inspection of these factories on a regular basis, and ensure that there is adequate and consistent testing of pollution levels. In addition to that, there must be the political will to have stringent enforcement of relevant laws combatting pollution.
Hefty fines must be levied on culprits to act as a strong deterrent. And where the pollution is potentially life threatening, there must be strict criminal laws to act as a warning to society. For our environment is sacred and must be protected.
Meanwhile, the fiasco continues. Air Selangor has currently divided areas into designated zones, and water is supposed to be supplied to these zones based on a planned schedule. The water tankers continue their mysterious journeys at odd hours (sometimes way past midnight) to supply water. The fact that no one seems to know when these tankers will arrive appears to be irrelevant. They still continue to come and go like dreams in the night.
At the end of the day, the water woes of the nation, be they in Selangor, Sabah, or some other state, need to be seriously addressed. Water is a precious commodity and we have a basic right to it.
The only way to combat the deadly disease of corruption is to increase transparency, responsibility and accountability in the system. Surely we, the Rakyat deserve to know what is happening. Otherwise this disease will soon become terminal, killing us slowly but surely.