Some 300 residents of Surakarta municipality, Central Java, accompanied Mayor Joko Widodo on Tuesday to pay for the electricity arrears for the city’s streetlights, fees owed to state-owned electricity company PT PLN’s Surakarta network service area, as had previously been promised.
The Rp 8,930,984,865 in arrears was directly paid by Joko Widodo in cash denominations of Rp 100,000, Rp 50,000, Rp 20,000 and Rp 10,000 and coins at the PLN office in Purwosari. He handed over the cash to the company’s area manager Puguh Dwi Atmanto.
The residents, some of whom were dressed in traditional royal troop uniforms and other attire usually worn by traditional dancers, witnessed the hand over, as the company did the accounting using calculators at the lobby area.
Also witnessing the event were Deputy Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo and municipal legislative council speaker YF Sukasno.
“Next time, please also consider the interest of the wider public before deciding the same policy,” Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, as he is more popularly called, told Puguh Dwi Atmanto as he handed out the cash.
The mayor was referring to PLN imposing a mass blackout on the street lamps of the city’s major thoroughfares on Dec. 23, 2011, after the municipal administration failed to pay for Rp 8.9 billion in arrears as scheduled.
PLN threatened the city administration that it would impose the measure until the administration paid its back payments, raising concerns that Surakarta might celebrate Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in a blackout.
PLN finally agreed to lift its threat only after the municipal administration promised to pay the arrears on Jan. 3, 2012, arguing that the money still left to be paid had so far been allocated in its 2012 budget and could only be disbursed after the budget was approved by the legislative council.
The administration did meet the promise on Tuesday, a day after the 2012 budget was approved by the municipal administrative council on Monday.
Speaking in front of the company’s Surakarta network service area directors, Jokowi firmly asked PLN not to repeat the same policy in the future for the sakes of the people’s interests.
City council speaker YF Sukasno concurred, saying that PLN should not be just profit-oriented, but also had to consider its social functions.
Responding to the remarks, Puguh Dwi Atmanto said that such a measure was not just imposed in Surakarta, but also in other regions in Central Java, including Sragen regency.
“What we imposed in Solo is the decision of a staged leaders’ meeting in PLN,” he said, referring to the nickname of Surakarta.
He said he could not guarantee if such measures would not be imposed in the future, saying that it depended on the company’s prevailing policies.