Rep expresses concern over amendment that may deprive Sarawak folk of electricity

Desmond Davidson

Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian says a proposed amendment to the Sarawak electricity bill will limit the obligation of a licensee to supply electricity to an applicant. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 21, 2023.

A PROPOSED amendment to the state electricity bill would make Sarawak Electricity Bhd (SEB) not obligated to supply power to any applicant according to Baru Bian.

The Ba Kelalan assemblyman said this was tantamount to a human right violation.

Under the amendments to the bill tabled by the Utiliti Ministry and Telecommunications Minister Julaihi Narawi, SEB is not obligated to supply electricity if the applicant or the premises has been previously discontinued under section 29 of the Principal Ordinance, or any money due and owing by the applicant to the licensee has not been fully paid.

Baru pointed to a case law in India which stated that electricity is one of the fundamental rights for existence and protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 21, the Parti Bersatu Sarawak (PBS) secretary-general also pointed out, is in “pari materia” with our Article 5 of the federal constitution which states that” “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.”

Baru, said court decisions from India “are very persuasive on our courts in Malaysia.” He is deeply concerned about the amendments which “arguably limits the obligation of a licensee to supply electricity to an applicant”.

The amended section he was referring to is section 27(3)(a)&(b).

He said the amended section 27 would mean that SEB is able to penalise land owners who are not at fault, and who may be an entity/person distinct from the owner of the premise”.

“Legally, it entitles SEB to withhold the supply of electricity for a new account in perpetuity until either the old account is cleared by the errant account holder, or the new account holder is forced to pay the old bill to get his account registered to the premises.”

Baru said in comparison, Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s section 25 of its Electricity Supply Act 1990, does not tie previous errant electricity accounts to the application of a subsequent electricity account holder’s right to be supplied electricity.

“In essence, there is no privity of contract between the earlier account holder to the next. Baru, a practising senior lawyer, told the assembly.

Julaihi said the electricity ordinance, which came into force on January 1, 1956, has to be updated to advance the Sarawak government’s policies on energy transition to clean renewable energy; entrenching the state’s status as the energy powerhouse or hub for the Asean region through a grid system that would enable renewable energy from Sarawak to be exported to Sabah, Brunei, Kalimantan, Singapore and even Peninsular Malaysia. –  November 21, 2023.

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