SELIM – Minister accuses PKK of spurring illegal electricity use in east

Minister accuses PKK of spurring illegal electricity use in eastEnergy Minister Taner YIldIz has said the outlawed Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) encouraged citizens in the eastern region of Turkey not to pay their electricity bills before the start of the Kurdish settlement process, indicating that the government has begun to blame yet someone else for the countyand#39s deeply entrenched problem of illegal electricity usage.As some 70 percent of the population in the southeastern provinces of the country fail to pay their electricity bills, they tap into power from the central electricity lines after distribution companies cut their electricity off.

Nonetheless, distribution companies apply a surcharge to all subscribers across the country in order to offset illegal usage.Ruling and opposition party deputies in Parliament have been engaging in heated debates over a draft law that seeks to legalize a surcharge paid by every subscriber to offset the costs of illegal electricity use across the country.

According to the energy minister: andquotThis is not a technical issue. Before the settlement process [started], the PKK told people in the region: andlsquoThis state is not ours.

Donand#39t pay your bills!and#39 They pressured [people]. Citizens, then, did not pay.

The rate of illegal electricity use is below 10 percent in 18 other regions, in compliance with European Union standards. andhellipThis happened in only those three regions [Dicle, Van and Aras].

andrdquoThe formal settlement process was initiated in 2012 by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in order to solve the decades-old Kurdish issue that arose due to oppressive practices of previous governments.The countryand#39s agenda has long been replete with reports of citizens all over the country applying for the reimbursement of payments they made on charges used to offset costs of illegal electricity use.

In December of last year, the Supreme Court of Appeals rendered a decision ordering a company to deliver compensation for a surcharge paid in the bills of its customers over the preceding 10 years. Due to the risk of a proliferation of similar applications for the reimbursement of similar surcharges — and the huge amount of money to be paid in such an event — the government prepared a draft law aimed at legalizing the surcharge and sent it to a parliamentary commission.

However, the commission has been marked by intense debates between deputies since it was first established.Commenting on the remarks of the minister, Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP) Izmir deputy Mehmet Ali Susam said: andquotYou cannot avoid it [paying compensation].

You privatized [the distribution firms] in order to decrease the illegal use of electricity. Were there no problems in that region before the privatization? Didnand#39t the PKK exist? All of this was known.

The government and the distribution companies knew.andrdquoThere are nearly 37 million subscribers registered with energy companies in Turkey paying approximately TL 70 billion in electricity bills.

The costs resulting from the illegal use of electricity, however, amount to between TL 5 million and TL 6 million each year, according to energy pundits.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman