By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: Many Sarawakians are shocked that their September electricity bills have ballooned after the Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco) changed their meters. “This is a clear case of exploitation,” said Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen.
Showing reporters a bill of a consumer in Kuching, Chong, who is the Bandar Kuching MP, said the consumer was issued a bill for a 36-month arrears of RM1,760.90, administration fee of RM400 and a meter fee for RM500, totalling RM2,660.90.
The houseowner received the bill after Sesco changed the electricity meter.
Chong said Sesco has been going around to residential areas and shops changing the meters because the meters, it claimed, were slower than they were supposed to be.
“It issued notices to house and shopowners alleging that the previous meters have been running slower than they were supposed to. And because of this, consumers have payed less.
“Sesco demanded payment for the 36-month shortfall, and imposed an administration fee of RM400 and a meter fee of RM500 on the consumers,” he said.
Although there is a provision under the Sesco Act to collect outstanding debts up to 36 months, the courts have decided that Sesco must prove that for the past 36 months, consumers have paid less than they were supposed to.
Sesco lost a case here and was thus not entitled to arbitrarily fix a figure and demand payment to make up for 36-month shortfall.
Chong said he was shocked that the meter fee was increased from RM150 in January to RM500 in July bearing in mind the meters belonged to Sesco.
“And how can Sesco charge consumers for the meters which belong to them?” he asked.
Exploitation of consumers
Chong said the RM500 increase was an exploitation of consumers, adding that there was totally no justification for the collection of RM400 for administration and RM500 for meter fees.
“Now, who decides to increase the meter fee from RM150 to RM500?
“Could it be that Sesco is exploiting Sarawakians because it needs to finance a Norwegian CEO whose annual salary is US$1.2 million plus 10 returns trips to Norway per year?
“Sesco also plans to employ 20 to 30 more expatriates whose salaries will be many times higher than those paid to the locals who are doing commendable jobs.
“Is Sesco going on a spree to collect money from Sarawakians to finance all these expatriates’ salaries?” he asked, saying that the state government has been shouting that it will create a society with high incomes for Sarawakians.
“Naturally, when expatriates are employed with such high salaries, statistically they reflect an increase in our mean income.
"But this high income only benefits the expatriates. The ordinary Sarawakians do not benefit as they are still paid low wages.
“I urge the Sesco not to play this game of statistics by getting all these highly paid expatriates whose salaries are being paid for by Sarawakians,” said Chong.