Experience Alone Not Enough To Meet The Sewerage Needs Of Malaysia

I thank Mr. Lum Weng Kee, the Director General of Sewerage Services Department (SSD) for his invitation to his office (NST, March 3), and am certainly looking forward to "clearing the air on septic tank" with him. Meanwhile, the technicality of septic tanks should not be let to obscure the many unanswered questions at issue.

In the first place, anyone reading Lum's two previous letters will have been struck by the fact that he, as head of the Government regulatory body in charge of national sewerage services, also chose to speak on behalf of IWK. Surely, to be effective in the implementation of any privatised projects there must be a clear demarcation of responsibility and authority between the regulatory authority and the concessionaire. Lum may well have confidence in IWK. He may even have faith in IWK, surprising as it may seem from track records to date. But he surely should not be speaking on its behalf as if IWK were part and parcel of his department. Malaysia incorporated not withstanding his business is to see that IWK does its business-- properly.

Also, in Lum's letters, he has repeatedly stressed that both his Department and IWK "have adequate experience in meeting the sewerage needs of the country". Their experience and knowledge of sewerage per se have never been called to question by me or other concerned parties. What is at issue is the way the problem of national sewerage disposal is being carried out and the action, or the lack of it, taken so far.

In the final analysis, it is the performance of the concessionaire that is important in any privatisation. To gauge the performance of IWK thus far, allow me to revert back to the sewage lifting station and treatment plant in Section 14, Petaling Jaya which I had highlighted in the newspaper between late 1995 and early 1996. Both these facilities were not in working order then resulting in raw and, at best, partially treated sewage been allowed to be discharged into Sg. Pencala.

In February 1996 IWK responded by assuring that both these facilities were programmed for refurbishment in August 1996. More than a whole year has passed since 95/96. There is no telling how long before had raw and only partially treated sewage been discharged into Sg. Pencala. They are still been discharged today. And who knows how much longer this is to go on unchecked. The accompanying photographs taken only a few days ago speak "a thousand words".

Yes indeed, Rome was not built in a day. But a journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step. Without this first step, in the right direction, Rome would never have been built in a million years!

March, 1997

(This article was sent to NST, but was not published)

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