A referendum will provide a political platform for the people to have their say on all matters related to water.
The prime minister is blatantly playing politics when he linked the water issue in Selangor with the upcoming national polls. His line is the voters must change the state government if they want water in their tanks. The government has all along accused the opposition-ruled state of politicising the controversy. It put on a sanctimonious show to move public sentiment in its favour in a game fraught with danger. This is a bad approach because it smacks of deceit and public tolerance for government dishonesty is at an all-time low.
Consumed with greed and desire, the federal housekeeper is only interested in seizing the state and all its wealth for its own use and aggrandisement. It still holds the upper hand with the licence to do things as it pleases. It can order its crony company to turn off the spigots and let the millions in the Klang Valley experience extreme discomfort. Without water, industries cannot operate, hospitals cannot perform emergency surgeries, schools will have to shut down, homes will become cesspits of diseases. Can the people allow this horror to come to pass?
The federal government has the power to change the “dry” environment, but it chose to play a sadistic master enjoying the spectacle of a tragedy slowly unfolding before its eyes. The more unyielding the state is, the more miserable will life be for the ordinary people caught in this senseless water war waged by the bigger brother for purely selfish, political ends. The prime minister has laid his cards on the table: only his government can solve the problem and only a change of leadership in the state can ensure the taps will not run dry. But this arm-twisting is not going to produce the desired result because the people, incensed at all this political skulduggery, are unlikely to buckle in the face of overt intimidation.
The federal government can be seen as the villain of the piece in wanting to push its own agenda even if it meant letting the state shrivelled up. It is obsessed with its dream of seeing its multibillion-ringgit pet water treatment project up and running. For sure, all cronies will get a slice of the large, fruity cake. The benefits of all massive projects do not flow to the people but invariably to those standing in the shadow of their political benefactors with their large bowls. So why should the people in Selangor want to change the government just so to fatten the political merchants of the ruling class?
Political hot potato
The water impasse could have easily been broken if politics did not rear its ugly head. The issue has now become a political hot potato and it must be fought by both sides on the high plains of politics. This means the people themselves must decide the whole question when they sit in the ballot box and weigh the arguments of the contending parties: Selangor does not want another treatment plant because there is one too many, but the bully boys insist the plant must be built to meet future requirements. Selangor also wants to take over the concessionaire for its inept job performance in the distribution of water but the federal government disagrees.
Since the country is not going to troop to the polling stations any time soon, a referendum will be the ideal tool to test the waters. Every thing now has taken a political twist since the prime minister himself has politicised the issue. A referendum will provide a political platform for the people to have their say not only on the question of the takeover but on all other water-related matters of crucial importance. The results will also indicate where the wind will blow when the eventual showdown comes.
Big decisions should be made not by “corporate bosses or political bureaucrats but by voters”. It is not Selangor that is putting up the roadblocks but the federal government that is creating the waves to drown the state. A referendum may not be enough to alter the course of events because the federal policy-makers may ignore the outcome. It now looks like a final settlement can be secured when the guards are changed at the federal level. The voters can make this happen. They will have their say soon.