PNG Government Under Fire For Electricity State Of Emergency

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Engagement of police, soldiers to collect bills called ‘illegal’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 12, 2015) – The engagement of PNG Defence Force soldiers and the police in the state of emergency (SOE) declared by the Government to recoup outstanding electricity bills continues to come under fire.

Last week former attorney general and Sinasina-Yongamugl MP Kerenga Kua described their engagement as unconstitutional and the Government’s actions illegal as the declaration of an 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 PNGDF and the Royal PNG Constabulary to fix a commercial problem.

But SOE controller Captain Tom Ur (retired) 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," Mr Ur said.

"There is 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 connection 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 the SOE controller, who was previously the PNGDF chief of staff.

It is understood the former soldier and State Enterprise Minister Ben Micah will be on FM100 this morning to give more details on the SOE.

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