Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 31.7.2017.
Gerakan Secretary-General and SPAN Chairman Liang Teck Meng is the latest of political cowards from Gerakan, when he refused to tell the truth that Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara(SPAN) had persistently pressed Perbadanan Air Pulau Pinang(PBAPP) to increase water tariffs. On 23 July 2017, Liang issued a statement under the bold heading “Reveal application letter and see who is to blame”,
“I take great offence at Lim Guan Eng’s statement where he accused me of giving a sign that the federal government wants Penang to increase its water rates in line with other states. This is pure slander on me by the Chief Minister.”
After I challenged him to sue me for defamation, for his allegation of “pure slander” against him, he copped out with flimsy excuses. This was his first act of political cowardice. He repeated that same act of political cowardice when he repeated on 28 July 2017 that I had tried to defame him, but was afraid to sue me for defamation. Liang Teck Meng then tried to divert attention by claiming that he had already sued me for defamation earlier.
However, this earlier defamation suit was filed by Gerakan, pertaining to my statement on land sales made 4 years earlier. In my 2013 statement, I had revealed that the previous BN Penang state government sold 36 times more land than the present Pakatan state government, and yet got less money because the Pakatan state government sold land by competitive open tender. Gerakan waited 4 years to sue me, obviously political motivated for the coming 14th General elections. Is Liang Teck Meng going to wait 4 years to do the same?
The second act of political cowardice occurred when he challenged me to allow SPAN to reveal the letter that the Penang state government, by letter dated 23 December 2016, wanted to increase water tariffs. But Liang was not brave enough to reveal other letters from PBAPP to SPAN, that PBAPP had withdrawn their 23 December 2016 letter to increase water tariffs on 21 February 2017.
Liang also did not reveal that SPAN had replied, opposing the withdrawal by PBAPP and twice asked that a water tariff increase be considered. Clearly Liang deliberately was hiding information, or selectively choosing information and taking them out of context, to paint a false and negative picture of the Penang state government.
SPAN Asked PBAPP To Increase Water Tarrifs Twice.
This was the third act of political cowardice by Liang, that he did not dare to disclose that SPAN had opposed increasing water conservation surcharge(WCS) because it was inadequate, and called instead of an increase in water tariffs. On 28 April 2017, PBAPP asked for an increase in Water Conservation Surcharge(WCS) instead, not as Liang claimed that PBAPP had increased water tarrifs four times. Instead of increasing water tariffs, PBAPP wanted to increase WCS to punish those who use excessive water instead of a water tariff increase that would penalise all.
This WCS was a final attempt by PBAPP to try to cut down water wastage before being forced to consider a water tariff increase as insisted persistently by SPAN. Clearly, Liang has failed to fulfil his statutory duty and chose to use his position as Chairman of SPAN, to make disclosure of confidential information to give him the political advantage to run down and embarrass PBAPP and the Penang state government.
As SPAN is a public regulator of water operators in Malaysia, the SPAN Chairman cannot use his position for political advantage. This is not only unethical and unprofessional, but disclosing confidential information in his statement on 23 July 2017, on the 23 December 2016 letter by PBAPP to SPAN, is a violation of secrecy laws under section 41 of the SPAN Act 2006.
Under Section 41 of the Act, SPAN members and employees are barred from disclosing information obtained during their employment. If found guilty, they may be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed for a maximum of three years. Now Liang is trying again to cover up his breach of his statutory duty, by swaying public opinion against the Penang state government through BN’s malignant control of the papers and mass media, which disgracefully refuses to fully publish my replies.
The Penang state government is proud that PBAPP is still able to maintain the lowest water tariffs in the country at 32 cents for every 1,000 liters, for the first 35,000 liters of water. This compares with Liang’s home state of Johor, that charges 4 times higher at RM1.32. PBAPP provides nearly RM100 million in annual subsidies to preserve the lowest water tariffs, and still can turn in an annual profit without fail.
Further we are even prouder that despite climate change that has caused many states to impose water rationing over the last 6 years, Penang remains the only state in Malaysian history that has never imposed any water rationing. Liang should pay more attention to his own home state of Johor in terms of reducing both its high water tariffs and the frequency of water rationing.
LIM GUAN ENG