On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Meetings upon meetings with no solutions

We have a water crisis, so a Cabinet committee headed by
Deputy  Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Anwar  Ibrahim is formed.

This high-level committee, with  its
clout, is supposedly to end our  problems
at the crack of the whip.

After all, Works Minister Datuk  Seri S.
Samy Vellu and other relevant authorities sit on the panel.

This is in addition to the countless daily meetings that are presumably being
held by the Selangor  Waterworks
Department and Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd.

Going by the pledges made following the brainstorming sessions  of these bodies, the days of trickling murky
water from our taps are  to end

After all, Selangor Mentri Besar  Datuk
Abu Hassan Omar has boldly  said that
water rationing would not  go beyond 24
hours from now.

So far, that doesn't seem to be the 
case. In fact, we are now told that 
water cuts will continue.

There seems to be no end to the 
finger-pointing, as blame is being 
shifted from the JBA to the Selangor state government.

The press, meanwhile, continues  to get
more phone calls from the  angry public.
It's easier, after all,  to get through
to the newsroom  than the JBA.

Perhaps another committee  needs to be
formed to study how  the efficiency and
productivity of  the JBA hotline
operators can be  enhanced.

In Sabah, the drought has led to a  food
shortage in certain parts of  the state's
vast rural areas.

And what do we hear? The state  natural
disaster and relief management committee headed by Datuk  Khalil Jamalul, in another tale of  bureaucratic red tape, says it cannot send
food aid to the 200  drought-stricken

Never mind that the rivers have  dried up
and fires have destroyed  nearly 15,000ha
of crops and forest  reserves.

The committee, according to reports, needs to assess the situation  further. In other words, more  meetings and more committees.

Out of desperation, Deputy Chief 
Minister Datuk Joseph Kurup had 
to use his assemblyman's allocation 
to send food and water supplies to 
the desperate families.

Village development and security leaders have been told to “closely monitor
the drought situation.''

Taking away the euphemism, it  simply
means do nothing, just  watch and send
your reports to the  various

The relevant committees will  then
discuss whether the state's  emergency
funds for food can finally be used.

Kedah Mentri Besar Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, who spends a lot of time  reading up management books, is  fond of telling his friends that Malaysians
spend too much time at  meetings.

The problem with Malaysians, he  says, is
that we love to talk.

“So at the village level, there is  the
Umno, PAS, Youth and mosque  committee

“In fact, at functions, there are  even
jawatankuasa cuci mangkuk  and
periuk  a committee to wash  cutlery and crockery,'' he said in  one interview.

Of course, there will be separate 
committees to handle the bunga 
manggar, lion dances and Indian 
music groups.

Along with all these committees 
sub-committees would come politicking and elections for the various

Yet, foreigners still tell us that  we
are not democratic enough   despite the
year-round elections  for all

Just flip through the souvenir  programme
when you attend a typical Malaysian function and look at  the long list of committees.

Never mind our obsession with  committees
and meetings if it leads  to better
co-ordination. What can  be better than
to get all those who  call the shots to
sit down over one  or two afternoons and
make quick  decisions.

Excluding the Prime Minister's 
Department, there are 23 ministries with their ministers, deputies,  parliamentary secretaries, political  secretaries and other officials, all  catering for a population of just 20  million people.

The word in the grapevine is  there will
be additional ministries.  This is
besides the various committees headed by the respective state  executive councillors.

Some mentris besar also double  up as
presidents of their municipal  councils
with the councillors under  their charge.
The MBs and chief  ministers also head
the state-level  National Economic Action

Everyone knew that the streets  of Kuala
Lumpur were dirty but  our bureaucrats
noticed the problem only after the Prime Minister  complained.

Another high-level committee  was
subsequently formed. With  other more
pressing matters cropping up, there have been fewer  meetings, presumably.

Numerous committees have been  formed to
tackle the sugar shortage, water shortage, flour shortage  and the economic problems.

Imagine the number of meetings  our
elected representatives have to 

If they have to be present at every sitting of the Dewan Rakyat   as some constituents demand   nothing will get done. The paper  work will just sit in the trays.

Well, at least, we now know that  there
will be more water tankers,  ultrasource
facilities and possibly  pipes linking
the federal capital  and water-rich

According to Samy Vellu, his proposed National Water Council has  received lukewarm response from  the states.

What more can the thirsty consumers ask for? Could the council  be formed and an inaugural meeting held

It will be good, however, if someone could come up with a solution  to provide just a day of uninterrupted water

My parents, who have been reluctant to visit me in the city, have  finally agreed to do so.

Will they be pleased when they  see
familiar surroundings in the  federal
capital  what with home grown vegetables,
roaming chickens, washing at the riverside and 
homes with wells.