KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah DAP leader believes Maximus Ongkili's statement on electricity tariffs was just to "test the watersâ€ on the people's reaction to the huge losses suffered by Sabah's power company and impending tariff hikes.
Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin said the energy, green technology and water minister had instead seemed to indicate that electricity tariffs would increase after the next general election (GE14).
Ongkili reportedly said that electricity tariffs in Sabah and Labuan would remain unchanged until June next year, while there would be no power tariff hikes for three years in Peninsular Malaysia.
"The announcement by Ongkili indicated that there will be an electricity tariff hike in Sabah after the next general election, which is due to be called within the next seven months.
"I believe that the real intention of Maximus is that the electricity tariff will be revised soon in Sabah after GE14 if Barisan Nasional (BN) retains power.â€
Chan said it was obvious why Maximus had earlier disclosed that Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) was on the verge of insolvency but then added that insolvency did not mean bankruptcy.
"I think the minister was testing the waters by alerting the people that SESB was making a huge loss and everyone should be aware of it, in order to prepare them to accept the power tariff hike to rescue the state power provider" he said.
"Maximus' clarification further proves my previous speculation was accurate.
"The whole intention of the BN government is to impose power tariff hikes in the name of utilisation of the incentive-based regulation (IBR) mechanisms as practised by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) in the peninsula.â€
Chan also claimed that Ongkili had received criticism from community leaders, and even his BN colleagues over his statements.
The Sri Tanjong assemblyman reminded Ongkili that the real issues remained unresolved.
"Maximus has conveniently avoided the real issues by talking about how to make power generation cheaper, reliable and greener when he announced the no-power-tariff hike in the press conference on Tuesday, 26 December.
"It's self-contradicting for Maximus when he said that SESB was still strong and could sustain itself with its RM8 billion worth of assets, given the difficult financial situation the company is in which could affect its ability to repay its loan.
"Sabah DAP is totally supporting Sabah Pakatan Harapan chairperson Christina Liew's call for a white paper to reveal the truth behind SESB's challenging financial situation" Chan said.
During the press conference yesterday, Ongkili said there was no plan to hand the state power company back to the Sabah government.
"We can, however, discuss the matter if the state government is willing to pay for SESB's assets of RM8 billion and cover other costs borne by TNB's subsidiary" Ongkili had reportedly said.
He was responding to talk that SESB, said to be on the verge of bankruptcy, would be given back to the state government.
TNB currently holds an 82.75% stake in SESB while the rest is held by the state government.
The Star reported Ongkili as saying a decision on the cash-strapped SESB would be made within the next four months.