Miri blackout: Substation protesters delayed power restoration, says Sarawak Energy

Menara Sarawak Energy

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KUCHING, August 10: A blackout hit Miri on Tuesday (Aug 7) night, but Syarikat Sesco Berhad’s technical personnel knew how to restore the power quickly — get to Miri Town 33/11kV Substation and replace the blown fuse.

It was the simplest of tasks, but it turned out to be a task that took about four hours to accomplish. Why the long delay? Well, protesters at the substation refused to let the technical personnel in; they only relented when the police intervened.

Sarawak Energy said despite using the company’s official vehicle, presenting the protesters with staff identification, and explaining the urgency of the repair works to restore power supply to Miri’s affected central business district, Sesco’s personnel were still illegally prevented by the protesters from entering the substation.

“The protesters insisted Sesco write in for permission each time there is a need to do repair or maintenance works at the substation with a name list of its technicians. It was only with assistance from the police that the technicians were able to finally gain access to the substation after four hours.

“A police report was lodged on the incident, making it the fifth made by Sesco on the situation at Miri Town Substation,” said Sarawak Energy in a statement. Sesco is Sarawak Energy’s utility arm.

The blockade, which started last year due to dispute between Sarawak Energy and land claimants, had also delayed the proposed crucial extension work of the substation as power demand in Miri had increased.

Sarawak Energy said the Miri Town Substation had been in operation at that site for over 30 years, from when Sesco was still a state statutory body. The blockade started last year when the protesters began obstructing access to the substation and its adjacent extension project site for an indoor substation, it added.

The state’s power company said protesters disputing ownership of the site had padlocked the substation’s gates in March this year as part of their protest, claiming for rights to the land at the Canada Hill area, which includes the substation site.

“The substation extension is a crucial development to turn the 30-year-old substation into a more modern indoor facility, mitigating the risk of equipment failure due to age and exposure to external factors.

“With the aim of reaching an amicable solution, several engagements have been held with the protesters in good faith to inform them of the importance of the Miri Town Substation for continued reliability of power supply to some 20,000 households in the city’s central business district and includes schools, a hospital and clinic and places of worship,” said Sarawak Energy.

Earlier on Tuesday (Aug 7), an engagement session was held at Sarawak Energy’s Miri Office to inform the protesters of the legal status of the land as title had been issued to Sesco.

The session was to inform the protesters of the intention to proceed with the construction work of the indoor substation project.

However, the protesters continued to bar access to the Sesco team despite being informed of the legal status of the land.

The protesters’ demands could interfere with the utility’s ability to carry out this responsibility, unacceptably delaying project, maintenance and supply restoration work, said Sarawak Energy.

The company respects the right of individuals and organisation to express their point of view as long as it is done in a lawful manner and does not jeopardise the operations of critical facilities and cause inconvenience to the general public.

However, Sarawak Energy said blockades and threats were raising safety and security issues for employees and contractors, whose mission is to provide affordable, reliable electricity for the people of Sarawak.

“Sarawak Energy continues to appeal to protesters not to block access into the substation and the construction site of the substation’s expansion project. It advises the group to resort to legal and peaceful means to address their claims,” it said. — DayakDaily