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  • Borneo,
    Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, MY


Comparing apple to apple: DS Shafie Abdal and TS Musa Aman



Since the recent discovery of many unscrupulous KKLW projects by SPRM happened during the time of DS Shafie Abdal, opposition supporters have been crying foul and accusing the BN Government of being bias and unfair treatment on the opposition; particularly on Party Warisan and its president, DS Shafie Abdal.


To clear this misconception and to be fair on both sides, both on DS Shafie Abdal (DSSA) and on Sabah BN Government represented by TS Musa Aman (TSMA), I would like to use some projects in Sabah as a yardstick to measure the integrity of both Offices (State Gov & KKLW), the ability to deliver by both administrators (TSMA & DSSA), and whether the objectives of their respective projects are people-centric project.


In order to compare apple to apple, Water Treatment Plant (WTP) project is chosen to use as a comparison tool between the two sides.


One WTP project is proposed, designed, funded, managed, and built by KKLW during DSSA was the minister of KKLW. While the other WTP project is proposed, designed, and tender by Jabatan Ayre of Sabah State Government but funded by the Federal BN Government.


Both WTP projects are located near Semporna and intended for the people in Semporna. Because of the similar nature of the project and at the same location, no better projects in term of similarity and comparability to compare strictly on apple to apple basis.


So let see who is the better apple for Sabah.


KKLW during DSSA was the Minister has implemented a WTP project in Semporna situated at the bank of Sungai Intan. This WTP cost KKLW about RM48 million to build. The basic details of this WTP project are a modular water package treatment plant of 6 MLD (million liters per day) capacity drawing and treating raw water from Sungai Intan. This project is intended to serve the nearby residents and the people in Semporna. The idea is noble, the objective sounds legit, the implementation is at best half-stake, however, the real scenario of the project is a nightmare.


First, the source of raw water intake is not from a river but from a small stream that you can see from the attached pictures of Sungai Intan and the aerial photo taken from Google Earth that show the WTP and the size of Sungai Intan next to it.



Second, there is no sizeable kampung near this WTP. Surrounding this WTP are all big oil palm estates and the one facing the WTP is Borneo Samudera Estate while another one nearby is owned and managed by Kuwaiti Government's GLC (in cooperation with a local Semporna Koperasi). There are some locals as well as foreign workers staying in and working for these oil palm companies but they are all well taken care of by the company they work for. And furthermore, the area near this KKLW's WTP is already connected with government water supply more than 10 years ago from a bigger state-owned WTP and reservoir located about 10 km away.


Third, to make matter worse, the site of this WTP is not far from the sea and the only water source that connects to Sungai Intan is the Pegagau River which is not a freshwater river but an estuary river that cut Semporna from the mainland. The water of the Pegagau River is saline all year round and unsuitable for treatment for freshwater especially for the type of WTP constructed by KKLW. So no chance for a second raw water supply for this WTP if any untoward incident happened to its only raw water source, the Sungai Intan.


Last, the site of this project is situated right next to the Tawau-Semporna highway where people can see the logic of this project and draw their own conclusion. DSSA being a local Sempornian should know this area well (his family owns an oil palm estate not far from where this WTP is), and he should know that the only viable site for WTP for Semporna area is at Sungai Kalumpang and no other place else.


Despite knowing these obvious facts, KKLW under DSSA still went ahead and built this WTP. It is no longer a question of why for DSSA, it is more like a proposition of why not.


Then we have another WTP project proposed, planned, organized and managed by Sabah State Government under the leadership of TSMA. He proposed and lobbied this project with the Federal Government not only for the basic water need of the Semporna people but also to have sufficient water supply for the commercial lifeline of Semporna; the tourism industry.


This WTP project is the second one under Sabah BN government to meet the current and future need of water in the Semporna area right till 2030. This WTP is a permanent designed concrete structure plant cost about RM150 million to build that includes a 30 MLD treatment capacity with 7.5 ML storing capacity, 25 km of 700 mm diameter MSCL steel pipe connecting it to an existing WTP that is currently serving Semporna, a ground (7 ML capacity) and an elevated (5 ML capacity) water reservoir and tower in Semporna town area to increase water storage and enhance water pressure so that water can be channelled to most area in Semporna.


This WTP proposed by the State Government is located near the mid-stream of Sungai Kalumpang drawing its raw water from this river which is the biggest river in the Tawau-Semporna area. According to the expert; the size and scale of the Kalumpang river, the flow rate, and the upstream water catchment areas are sufficient for Sungai Kalumpang to cater up to 200MLD WTP that is more than enough to supply to over a million population in and around Semporna-Kunak area.


Although this latest WTP project is yet to be completed and at the last checking it is about 70% completion but the tests and surveys carried by Jabatan Ayre of Sabah State Government hasn't stopped. It is making sure that the contractor is complying with project requirements, the engineering work is able to meet the intended quality, and the project is able to satisfy the planned objectives and targets.


The existing state-owned WTP in Semporna constructed just before TSMA took over as Sabah CM is not far away and of similar specifications as the current WTP project and it has been supplying water to Semporna for the last 15 years without fail.


Comparing apple to apple, the cost of the WTP built by KKLW is already 40% more than the project currently carries out by Sabah State Government. Although there may be differences in scopes of work and one cannot tell for sure which one is more reasonable cost unless we see the detail BQ documents, but the difference between a permanent full function water treatment plant and a modular water package treatment plant are apparent.


The full function water treatment plant is like a heavy truck while modular water package treatment plant is like a utility truck; In any event, the latter should not cost more than the former. Even without considering the scopes of work and the difference in designs and functionality between the two WTP, it is also a world apart in term of capacity. Using MLD as a guideline one can quantify to tell which one of the project is more fairly cost in general.


Based on MLD basis, KKLW's WTP cost about RM8 million per MLD (RM48 million / 6 MLD) constructed prior to GST, while the current WTP project by Sabah State Government is costing about RM5 million per MLD (RM150 million / 30 MLD) inclusive of GST. And based on this straightforward comparison it is already a cool 40% higher cost on KKLW's project that the profit made doesn't know went into whose bank account.


Therefore, this is a classic example of what plan to success and what plan to fail is all about.


Without the need of expert advice, DSSA should have enough local knowledge and logic to know that his WTP project at Sungai Intan will fail and will fail miserably but DSSA still insists to carry out despite the obvious. The outcome is not surprising and it is now a solid white elephant project that sits idle for 5 years and still counting since completion.


On the other hand, TSMA is not a local Semporna but he has a team of experts and colleagues that advise him on the matter of importance to the State. He considered their advice and subsequently finalized on matters concerning Sabah based on his experiences and instincts; the outcome is more successful planning and projects that are beneficial to the state and the people than most previous State governments and administrations.


From this example we can see the differences between these two Sabah leaders that one is selfish and one not, one is more concern about the benefits of his cronies and one is not, and one like to brag about the things he has done regardless they are right or wrong but the other prefer to do his work discreetly and diligently and making sure Sabah and its people can be benefited from it ultimately.



Not hard to see who is the good apple and who is not.











COMMENT: As we remember Malaysia’s 54th birthday, the subject of the formation of Malaysia has caught the people’s attention again.


I was asked by two young men (at a forum organized by UPKO) whether Sabah made the right decision to be part of the federation, and whether Sabah could become like Singapore, had it decided to remain independent.


My answers were: yes, our forefathers made the right decision: being part of the federation was the best option, given security concerns and developmental needs.


Here, it should be stated that we saved ourselves from eminent geopolitical dangers by agreeing to merge to form a new country.


On the second question, Arnold Puyok replied, it depends: we could either be like Singapore if we had the right leaders with the right priorities or be swallowed by our mighty neighbors.


But it is not too late. Sabah can become like Singapore.


First, Lee Kuan Yee’s life, mind, and soul were dedicated to Singapore. He and other pioneering leaders were willing to sacrifice for the sake of Singapore. All they wanted to do was to see Singapore succeed despite being sandwiched between Southeast Asia’s more populated and resource-rich neighbors.


Second, Lee Kuan Yew had the right mix of recipes to ensure Singapore’s success: competent political leaders, a good system of governance, and incorruptible civil service.


In fact, we can be better than Singapore, given our geographical size, multicultural society, and natural resources.


Arnold further stressed: Let us start acting and thinking like (the late) Lee Kuan Yew and his band of selfless leaders.


At a forum organized by the National Council of Professors, we discussed ‘Negaraku: Di Mana dan Ke Mana’? After 54 years, we have seen tremendous development throughout the country.


For some, the formation of Malaysia in 1963 is the ‘saddest moment’ in their life, but the young generation of Malaysians have begun to appreciate the decision of our founding fathers to form Malaysia. Many have benefitted from Malaysia’s economic prosperity and political stability.


However, we need to come up with more inclusive and practical nation-building programmes to enhance the sense of belonging among Malaysians. No ethnic group – big or small – should feel alienated, but be given the opportunity to build and manage the country.


We are not a ‘failed’ state as charged by some. Our state just fails to function effectively in managing and distributing our resources for the benefit of all. It is this inefficiency and the culture of mediocrity that we must address.


The Malaysian Agreement 1963 and all the basic documents that led to the formation of Malaysia are important. But the country must function and operates based on the Federal Constitution.


The rights of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak are spelled out clearly in the constitution. If we want the constitution changed, we need to state our case credibly. It is not wrong for Sabah to assert its rights but this must be done in the spirit of accommodation, understanding, and tolerance.



• Dr Arnold Puyok is Seeds Senior Fellow and teaches at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.