Rule of law, Baram Dam and water management in Selangor
While many Selangor residents endure water-rationing, Chris Chong takes time out to provide a round-up of the week’s events.
Eighteen months ago, on the eve of Malaysia day, the Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to abolish the Sedition Act, which has weighed down democracy in Malaysia. It is thus ironic that the government has resorted to this draconian legislation to harass and silence political opponents and human rights activists in recent times.
The latest to fall victim to this unjust legislation is Karpal Singh. He was found guilty by the High Court on 21 February 2014 of “uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009”. He, who is wheel-bound, now faces a possible sentence of either a fine of RM5,000 or three years sentence or both - which means he risks losing his parliamentary seat because the Federal Constitution stipulates that any Member of Parliament must be removed from office if fined more that RM2,000 or jailed for a term exceeding one year.
The President of the International Federation of Human Rights, Karim Lahidji, noted: “Under the rule of law, no one is above the law. A decision of the monarch can be scrutinised in a judicial process under a constitutional monarchy system. Mr Karpal Singh has been prosecuted for merely expressing a legal opinion. This is clearly inconsistent with international standards for freedom of opinion and expression, including Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights”.
Meanwhile, the indigenous people of the Baram district have continued their efforts to stop the construction of the Baram Dam by blocking construction workers and machinery from entering into the district. The blockade, according to them, is done in a peaceful manner.
In order to permanently stop the construction of the dam, they have built a new village at KM15 to serve as a base in their bid to stop the dam from being build. The new village is named Kampong Operasi Selamatkan Baram (Operation Save Baram Village). The Baram Dam is viewed as a threat to the way of life of 20,000 Orang Ulu as well as destroying a large swath of tropical forest which is damaging to the environment.
Meanwhile, the Selangor state government and the Federal government have signed a “binding and irrevocable” Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the management of water supply in the Selangor.
Under the MoU, Selangor will take over the operations of all the water concessionaires in the state for RM9.65bn and give all the necessary approvals to expedite the construction of the Langat 2 water treatment plant by the federal government. The federal government, on the other hand, is obliged to undertake mitigation projects totaling RM909m to resolve water supply problems in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya until the Langat 2 plant is in operation.
Although the public has been made aware of the broad details of the MoU, the fine details of the memorandum have not yet been made public. Let’s hope that, in the name of transparency, the document will be released for public scrutiny as soon as possible.
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Co-editor, Aliran e-Newsletter
4 March 2014