11/12/2009, 00.00
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Jakarta in the dark, Indonesians angry with power company

by Mathias Hariyadi
PLN Electricity Company bosses are blamed. They pledge compensation. Many in East Java and South Sulawesi have to endure hardships. In the last few weeks, power cuts last 10 to 12 hours a day. About 32,000 small- and medium-sized firms experience “monumental” losses.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Financial compensation is not large enough to reduce Jakartans’ outrage against the bosses of the state-owned PLN Electricity Company over its failure to provide power supplies to the country’s capital and its neighbouring cities because of problems in one power plant in North Jakarta.

PLN’s President Fahmi Mochtar did issue a statement saying the company would pay damages, but the frequent blackouts have forced millions of people in Jakarta, East Java and South Sulawesi to live in total darkness, in some cases, for up to 10 to 12 hours a day.

Only supermarkets, hospitals and hotels, which have their own electrical generators, could “survive” the problem cause by the loss of power supply. However, for those without such luck, the situation has often been desperate.

After hours in traffic jams, people arrive home to total darkness, forced to use candles for light, often without clean water.

“I am afraid of possible fire when we fall asleep with a candle still on,” said Mukimah, a homemaker from Cileduk in the Tangerang Regency (district).

“Children cry without end because of an atmosphere made unsafe by darkness,” said Yenny, another homemaker in South Jakarta.

In public buildings, the situation is really bad because there is no air conditioning. Computers do not work and workers have to rely on candles for light.

Things are even worse in manufacturing, and business leaders are beginning to vent their frustration.

Indonesian Textile Association chief Ernovia G. Ismy has complained about heavy losses in the sector.

“The situation is getting worse,” he said. “Often, the timetable for planned blackouts is not respected.”

One consequence is that companies are forced to pay overtime (for nightshift work for example) to workers who have to wait for power to be turned on before they can get back operating their machines.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Consumer Association (YLKI) has issued a press release announcing legal action against the PLN Electricity Company. An YLKI spokesperson said, “10 per cent financial compensation [offered by the power company] is not enough”.

Jakarta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) also protested, saying that more than 32,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises in the city suffered monumental losses because of frequent power cuts.

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