Blockade at Miri Town Substation delays power restoration for four hours

( #1

MIRI: An ongoing blockade by protesters at Miri Town 33/11kV Substation delayed the restoration of power supply on Tuesday night (Aug 7), keeping affected residents in the dark for up to four hours.

Despite using the company’s official vehicle, presenting the protestors with staff identification and explaining the urgency of the repair works to restore power supply to Miri’s affected central business district, technical personnel from Sarawak Energy’s utility arm Syarikat Sesco Berhad (Sesco) were still prevented by the protesters from entering the substation to replace a blown fuse.

According to a press statement yesterday, the protestors instead 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 over the incident, making it the fifth one made by Sesco on the situation at Miri Town Substation.

The substation has been in operation at the present site for over 30 years, from when Sesco was still a state statutory body.

The blockade started last year when the protestors began obstructing access to the substation and its adjacent extension project site for an indoor substation.

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 project 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,” the statement added.

Earlier that day, 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. The protesters continued to bar access to the team despite being informed of the legal status of the land.

Sarawak Energy, a wholly-owned government entity through Sesco is entrusted with the responsibility of providing reliable and affordable electricity for the people of Sarawak on a 24/7 basis.

“Protesters’ demands can interfere with the utility’s ability to carry out this responsibility, unacceptably delaying project, maintenance and supply restoration work.

“Sarawak Energy respects the right of individuals and organisations 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.

“Blockades and threats raise 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 and advises the group to resort to legal, peaceful means to address their claims,” the statement concluded.