GEORGE TOWN: A DAP politician has hit out at a water company for cutting water supply to a squatter village near Bedong, Kedah, saying it should have taken a humanitarian approach to the situation.
P Ramasamy, who is deputy chief minister of Penang, said under federal laws on water, Syarikat Air Darul Aman (Sada) should have obtained a court order to cut water to the residents, especially if they were squatters.
He said this was according to the Water Services Industry (Water Supply Services Agreement between Consumers and Water Distribution Licensee) Rules 2014.
In particular, he referred to a provision under Section D, Clause 20.3, which states that termination of water supply to squatters requires a court order.
The regulation, which came into effect on Aug 15, 2014, is part of a subsidiary law under the Water Services Industry Act 2006.
“In this case, Sada did not have the decency to consider the plight of the families in the estate,” he said.
“At least Sada could have obtained a court order before the water supply was terminated, but it did not do so.
“If it had gone to court, the court could have considered the plight of the residents and the implications of water termination to their health and well-being,” he said, urging Sada to reconnect the water supply.
The 50-odd residents of Kampung Sungai Getah 2 recently told FMT they had been living without electricity or access to clean drinking water for 40 years. They rely on water from the well and harvest rainwater.
There are just two water pipes, one at each end of the village. None of the homes are piped, as the water company considers the village buildings temporary structures although most are built of bricks.
The landowners have refused to allow the installation of power lines or individual water meters.
Villagers claim their water bill is too high, with rates charged under an industrial tariff which they cannot afford.
Ramasamy urged the Kedah government not to wash its hands of the matter, saying it should waive the bill and find ways to help the villagers.
“Terminating water supply to residents, even if they are living on private land, is an act of extreme cruelty,” he said.
“It serves no purpose to come up with a brilliant manifesto if a basic and fundamental right such as water cannot be restored to workers and their families.”
He also said he had been informed that the local assemblyman is prepared to negotiate with Sada to settle the debts incurred by the residents before the reconnection of water supply.
FMT has contacted the landowners and Sada for comment.
Previously, Kedah executive councillor Summugam Rengasamy said the state government had tried to help the squatters by getting them to stay at another neighbourhood, but they refused to do so.
He said the squatters had insisted on staying in their village as they wanted to tend to their livestock.
Summugam also said attempts to give individual water supply to the villagers were met with legal notices from the landowners, threatening legal action if they continued.