Posted: 20 Feb 2011 08:15 PM PST
Obviously the Selangor state's campaign against water price hikes and the return of the water concessions to the state have hit a nerve, for Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor has filed a defamation suit against me.
They found an article in the Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pau on 16 November last year which quoted me as saying (as translated by Syabas lawyers):
"Tony Pua Kiam Wee mendesak SYABAS untuk mengembalikan hak pengurusan pembekalan air kepada Kerajaan Negeri Selangor. Kerajaan negeri telah melancarkan kempen "Kembalikan Hak Air kepada Rakyat"... Beliau berkata bahawa selepas perundingan bagi Kerajaan Negeri Selangor untuk membeli 4 syarikat konsesi air tidak berjaya, ini telah membawa kepada kempen untuk menghalang kenaikan tarif sebanyak 37%... Beliau berkata bahawa jika syarikat-syarikat konsesi air tidak mempunyai wang yang cukup untuk membayar hutang mereka, mereka perlulah memulangkan hak pembekalan air kepada kerajaan negeri. Kalau mereka tidak mempunyai keupayaan untuk menukar paip air baru, mereka perlu menghentikan atau menamatkan servis pembekalan air mereka..."
You decide if it was defamatory.
Anyway, Syabas served the Writ of Summons dated 28 January 2011 on me claiming:
Syabas sues Khalid Ibrahim, Pua for defamation
UPDATED @ 04:20:12 PM 15-02-2011By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal February 15, 2011
SHAH ALAM, Feb 15 — Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) has filed defamation suits against Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and the DAP's Tony Pua over recent statements against the water utility company.
Both Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders were served with a writ of summons on February 11, they confirmed today.
The first mention for the case was heard yesterday at the High Court here, where Pua (picture) and Khalid were each given a month to prepare their statement of defence. Gobind Singh Deo will represent Pua while Edmund Bon will act as counsel for the Selangor MB.
"Our lawyers have been directed to prepare our defence," Khalid told reporters here today.
Khalid is being sued over statements made last year, where he claimed that Syabas' Tabung Budi fund was in violation of its water concession agreement.
The fund allows Selangor residents who wish to waive their right to free water to pay for the 20 cubic metres they receive gratis from the state every month, worth RM11.40.
The sole water distributor then uses the money collected to help other residents who lack access to clean water.
A total of 11 households in Selangor have received assistance from Syabas since the fund's inception on August 24 as an internal Syabas and Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd initiative. The fund has collected over RM350,000 to date, according to Syabas.
"This suit does not change our stand in the Tabung Budi issue. Syabas has not right to ask water users to surrender their funds because these funds were given by the state government through the free 20 cubic metres of water programme," added Khalid.
He said that state officials have already written a letter to Syabas to ensure that all legal fees in this suit would be borne only by Syabas directors and not the company, as the case has "nothing to do" with Syabas' function as the water supplier to Selangor residents.
The Selangor MB maintained that his administration would still push for Selangor's takeover of the four concessionaires including Syabas.
Pua, on the other hand, is being sued over recent media statements made to Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau Press.
He had said that if the water concessionaires could not settle their debts, the state government should take over the rights of management of water supply in Selangor.
"I don't understand what is defamatory in my statement.
"The action by Syabas is an act of intimidation and comes at a time where the state is in the process of restructuring the management of water supply in Selangor," said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP who was also present at the press conference today.
The Malaysian Insider understands that Syabas has sent a letter of demand to another Selangor PR federal lawmaker over remarks against the water utility.
Syabas has already sued Selangor for RM472 million on November 10 last year for preventing the water distributor from increasing water tariffs in 2009 as provided for in its concession agreement.
The deal involving Syabas, the Selangor government and the federal government allows for conditional tariff hikes every three years.
Selangor's water players — Syabas, Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Konsortium ABASS — are at risk of debt payment default as water bonds approach their maturity dates.
The debt service problem started when Syabas was barred from implementing a 37 per cent tariff hike agreed upon in January 2009 after the Selangor government claimed the sole water distributor had not done enough to reduce leakages which cost the state millions.
This, in turn, led to payment problems between Syabas and water treatment concessionaires PNSB, Splash and Konsortium ABASS, who supply it with treated water.
Selangor, which already owns 80 per cent of the state's water assets, is in the process of taking over the remaining assets from the concessionaires to fulfil a statutory restructuring which will see water supply across the peninsula centralised under the federal government.
Selangor's latest RM9 billion offer for the assets and liabilities of all four concessionaires fell through after it was rejected by three of the four water players.
A project to obtain water from Pahang has also been delayed due to the issue.
The state government has made two previous offers for the water assets.
But privatisation plans under a federal water agency have been put in deep freeze as federal and state governments engage in what industry watchers have called "excessive politicking".
PR wants to control the state's water assets so it can fulfil its promise to keep water cheap for Selangor residents by controlling tariffs.
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