A world class university without water?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of April, 2015

Much has been said about the Minister of Education II, Dato Seri Idris Jusoh’s statements about Malaysia having a world class higher education system. I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the ongoing problem regarding the water supply within Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Bangi.

Last week, I received complaints from some of the UKM student unions that 5 out of the 13 colleges had been experiencing water disruptions, some for as long as three weeks. As of yesterday, I have been notified that the following four colleges – Kolej Ungku Omar, Kolej Aminuddin Baki, Kolej Keris Mas and Kolej Burhanuddin Helmi – were still without their water supply. The authorities in UKM have been sending water trucks to supply water to these colleges.

How can we talk about achieving world class status for our universities when we cannot even ensure that they have an adequate water supply? The university authorities have been putting the blame on SYABAS. While the water supply in some areas in Hulu Langat did experience water cuts as a result of water pollution near the Semenyih dam, these disruptions only lasted one or two days. Even now, Bangi and Kajang are not experiencing water cuts but somehow some colleges and buildings in UKM still are without water.

This problem is not new.[1] Serious water disruptions at UKM has been happening over the past 10 years.[2] Among the reasons given by the university authorities is the fact that many places within UKM are located on higher ground which decreases the pressure of the water supply. The water pipes in UKM are also in need of upgrading. I have been told that SYABAS has given various proposals to UKM to upgrade its internal pipe system but this has not been carried out. I will ask for the documentary proof for this when I meet with Syabas next week.

If the authorities at UKM have been aware of the piping and water pressure problems, then why has it not used its development expenditure to upgrade its infrastructure? According to the 2014 budget estimates, a total of RM74.1 million, RM61.5 million and RM46.8 million of development expenditure was allocated to UKM for the years 2011-202, 2013 and 2014 respectively. Why wasn’t some of this development expenditure used to upgrade the piping system within UKM?

Instead of upgrading the piping system within UKM, a large amount of resources were dedicated to projects such as the PERMATA related projects whose main patron is none other than Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Prime Minister. The PERMATA Pintar Negara complex, which was built in one year, cost the federal government RM20 million. At the same time, the 2nd phase of the PERMATA project received RM54 million from the 10th Malaysian Plan and was completed in 2013.[3] In addition, the Specialist PERMATA Children’s Hospital at UKM is being built at a cost of RM606 million via a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).[4]

Is this an example of a world class university where development funds are channelled towards projects which have political support while the welfare of students and lecturers are not prioritized? UKM has been resorting to digging and installing tube wells to provide water for the toilets and for bathing.[5] I call upon the Minister of Education II to immediately approve an additional development budget for UKM to upgrade its campus infrastructure to solve the water problem. I also call upon the university authorities to work together with SYABAS and other stakeholders, including the state government, in order to find a workable short and long term solution to this problem.

[1] http://duriangood.blogspot.com/2013/10/water-disruption-in-ukm-conspiracy.html

[2] http://penpasksgb.blogspot.com/2015/03/pelajar-ukm-derita-10-tahun-tak-cukup.html

[3] http://www.ukm.my/news/index.php/ms/berita-kampus/631-datin-paduka-seri-rosmah-launches-permata-foundation.html

[4] http://www.ukm.my/news/index.php/extras/1528-childrens-specialist-hospital-being-built-at-ukm-medical-centre-.html

[5] https://www.facebook.com/kerismas/posts/881344688583085