Padungan rep raises concerns over proposed Electricity Bill 2023, Utilities Minister moves to clarify

Electricity power supply current
File photo for illustration purposes. Photo credit: Pixabay

By Shikin Louis

KUCHING, Nov 21: Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has raised concerns over the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023, claiming it would legitimise what he perceives as unfair actions by SESCO.

He argued that SESCO’s refusal to reconnect electricity supply to premises where the previous tenant had unpaid bills penalises the landlord, despite the account being in the tenant’s name.

He said the penalty which was supposed to be given to the current tenant of the premises, was often transferred to the landlord who could not rent out the premises to a new tenant despite the fact that the implicated electricity account was under the name of the previous tenant.

“Despite the fact that the account holder is in the name of the tenant and the tenant was the one who did not pay or clear his outstanding electricity bills and ran away, SESCO refused to reconnect the electricity supply to the premises and thus, the owner of the premises cannot rent out the premises to a new tenant.

“I had always believed that SESCO’s action to not reconnect the electricity supply is wrong in the eye of the law but with this amendment, it will legitimise what SESCO is practising,” he claimed when debating on the proposed Bill in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

He was referring to Section 27(3) under the Bill which provides that an electricity supplier like SESCO is not obligated to supply to the applicant where the applicant or premises had been previously discontinued.

Minister of Utility and Telecommunication Dato Sri Julaihi Narawi in his winding-up speech clarified that the landlord should be liable for the default of his tenant and that the landlord could avoid liability by taking a deposit from his tenant to pay for any outstanding bills.

“Honorable Member for Padungan also raised the issue that SESCO had imposed charges and penalties on a consumer arbitrarily even though the SESCO meter was faulty.

“For the information of this august House, where there has been a complaint of non-payment, an investigation for non-payment of electricity or meter tampering and a proper assessment, based on all available evidence, is made to compute the amount that the consumer has to pay.

“If he has genuine reasons to dispute the amount claimed by SESCO, he can bring the matter to the Court,” he explained.

Julaihi further said the amendment is made not only to resolve issues with regards to the loss of revenue by the licensee due to non-payment of bill arrears by an applicant in his previous use of electricity, but more importantly to curb any usage of electricity for illegal purposes that may endanger the public/private safety. — DayakDaily