Better senses for our country’s sake

DATUK Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, you mentioned it was time to separate the chief minister from state government agencies.

It was reported that if Barisan Nasional (BN) wins Penang state in the next polls, the Penang chief minister may not lead state government agencies such as the Penang Development Corporation and PBA Holdings Bhd. This may appear to be a gallant call but I think otherwise.

A much-needed rectification of our governance structure is long overdue. It is timely and rational but at the same time, the rakyat questions if this suggestion is rational, sensible and whether it makes sense to apply this call to both the federal and state governments.

You are a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, you have a moral obligation to explain and enhance the rakyat, more so the Penangites. Let us examine the case of PBA Holdings Bhd for which the Penang chief minister has been sitting as chairman on the board.

I agree that he should not be there but most other states have a similar structure where the mentris besar sit as chairman of the water companies. As Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong pointed out "Why the double standard?" What makes Penang so different?

At the same time, we have the Gerakan secretary-general, a politician sitting as chairman of Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN), the water commission which is the regulatory body of water supply services.

The uncanny position has given way to a public spat between Datuk Liang Teck Meng, a member of Parliament and SPAN chairman, and Lim Guan Eng, PBA Holdings Bhd chairman and Penang chief minister. The former made a public statement that Penang had applied for a tariff increase.

I would have thought, that being SPAN chairman, he would've been more sensible in keeping such an application confidential until SPAN had approved the implementation for an increase.

What is wrong with an application for water tariff increase? Didn't TNB increase its tariff? Isn't a water tariff increase part of the water reform, which is an established policy direction for SPAN to implement? Why did the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water allow the spat to manifest?

I have pointed out that it does not bode well, to have politicians or retired politicians along with members who have little knowledge, skills and experience sit on the commissions, boards or committees of these agencies. We need to be sensible! Water utility is meant to serve the people.

I wish to commend Abdul Rahman for rationally broaching the subject of the chief minister's power over government agencies.

But rationality, when myopic can lead to paucity of sensibility. Let us not lose sight of a good proposal and make it sensible to apply across the board, especially regulatory bodies, immediately.

Regulatory bodies should discharge policy objectives fairly and should consist of board members or commissioners who are knowledgeable and contributing to the development of the industry in which they regulate. It is not a political platform nor a retirement home for politicians.

We have our challenges in life and we cannot blame our leaders for external shocks. However, we cannot accept self-inflicted wounds of political strives spilling over on to people's well-being.

Please confine the political battles to intellectual discourse on policies that promotes socio-economic development in Parliament and state assemblies. May better senses prevail for the sake of our country.

Tan Sri Robert Phang Miow Sin
Justice of the Peace