The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, in a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, today, has requested the temporary suspension of the installation of pre-paid electricity meters by GPL in the Festival City area until full and complete discussions with those residents are held. The letter to the Prime Minister was dispatched after Mr. Corbin, and a team including, Member of Parliament, Ms. Africo Selman and other executive members of the PNCR, including Ms. Lurlene Nestor and Ms. Hazel Pinder, visited the area earlier today to discuss the plight being faced by these residents.

On Sunday last, according to the residents, without prior notice, GPL technicians began removing their meters and installing the new pre-paid devices. Under this new system, consumers would have to purchase credit from the GPL in advance of electricity supply. This credit is then entered in a device similar to a prepaid phone. As soon as the credit is expended, electricity supply to the home is automatically disconnected. Two residents who were the victims of this arbitrary removal of their meters by GPL have already experienced the automatic disconnection of electricity supply to their homes late at night with no understanding of what could have been done to relieve them of such a plight.

It is significant that GPL has provided no written information or explanatory document to the affected consumers as to how the new system will work. No information has been provided about the status of existing contracts between these consumers and GPL, which may have been breached. Additionally, there have been no attempts by GPL to enter into any alternative contractual arrangement with those consumers with respect to the new arrangements.

The affected families have been placed at a disadvantage of rushing down to GPL offices to obtain credit for their electricity supply to be maintained. The rate at which the credit for those affected homes are diminishing, suggest that the cost of future electricity supply is likely to double their present average payment. In the absence of any proper explanation, residents are unable to determine several issues, including, the course of action to be taken when their electrical supplies are automatically disconnected after normal working hours. One resident has already experienced the automatic disconnection of electricity after midnight because of the expiry of her credit. It is, therefore, unconscionable for the Government and GPL to hold consumers of electricity to ransom in such a manner.

It is puzzling why this pre-paid meter programme has been initiated in the center of Festival City, Georgetown where consumers already have contracts with GPL, and not in one of the new Housing Schemes that is about to receive electricity for the first time.
In a Press Statement dated Friday July 17, 2009, the PNCR highlighted and drew attention to these impending developments. We warned that citizens were concerned that no option is being offered to them. We urged GPL to show respect for Guyanese citizens. Regrettably, the Government and GPL choose to act in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.

The PNCR believes that it will be unreasonable and unjust for GPL to proceed with this exercise before a full and proper explanation is provided to the residents and an agreement reached. Nothing can be lost by delay, since these consumers have existing contractual agreements with GPL to pay for electricity consumed by them.

The commencement of this exercise without consultations with residents and an effective education programme is to court disaster. We, therefore, call on our citizens to be vigilant and to guarantee that there is no imposition until such time as proper arrangements are in place to ensure that this exercise is not injurious and disruptive to their lives. GPL must know that the questionable bills received on a regular basis and the imposition of these meters amount to extortion.

The Leader of the Opposition hopes that the Prime Minister would act with dispatch in this matter.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Wednesday 26 August 2009