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Power bill emergency defended

Tuesday 13 January 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – The engagement of Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers and the police in a state of emergency declared by the government to recoup outstanding electricity bills continues to come under fire in Papua New Guinea.

Last week former attorney general and Sinasina-Yongamugl MP Kerenga Kua described the use of troops and police officers to collect debts as unconstitutional and the government’s actions illegal as the declaration of a state of emerency (SOE) only applied to a national crisis or emergency.

Over the weekend Opposition Leader Don Polye expressed similar sentiments and decried the use of the two disciplinary forces as “debt collectors” for the cash-strapped state-owned PNG Power Limited.

Papua New Guineans also took to social media to slam the government over the decision by the National Executive Council to use the Defence Force and the Royal Constabulary to fix a commercial problem.

But SOE controller Captain Tom Ur in a statement released yesterday assured the public that the security forces will not be debt collectors and will only be used in the event of opposition or threats against those tasked to force compliance.

“The SOE into electricity services is much more than outstanding bills,” Ur said.

“There are massive illegal connections around the country involving business houses and people, especially in the provinces and the settlements in the major cities including the urban suburbs.

“My mission under the state of emergency on electricity is to improve electricity services to all who needs it with complete compliance with Papua New Guinea laws.

“My objectives are to identify the leakages within PNG Power, deal with public or private sector doing illegal connections of power, deal with private power producers not complying with the law and get government departments to pay their power bills on time.”

“The rights of citizens as well as business houses will not be affected during the SOE period,” added Captain Ur, who was previously the PNGDF chief of staff.

NZ$34 million worth of electricity is stolen annually in the city of Mt Hagen, according to Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Ben Micah.