By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
It is not too comforting to know that the humblest thing is often being relegated to some empty recesses of our mind. We seldom give basic necessities such as water and electricity much attention unless they affect your routine and lives.
Perception is a strong tool that nullifies your thoughts however discerning one may be. I don’t wish to sound philosophical but what I am trying to proffer is how we have taken things for granted simply because of the assumption that they don’t necessarily work in our favour.
Take the service provided by our monopolistic power supplier, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) whose predecessor was the less gargantuan National Electricity Board of yesteryear. Nobody would give a hoot if told that there is more to TNB other than its bold lettering emblazoned on electric poles and on the doors of sub-stations in your neighbourhood.
Like many others I have come to regard TNB as an insatiable government-linked company whose only interest is to squeeze as much from the long-suffering public. Reports of hidden charges under some very innocuous headings in the monthly bill are rife. There have been instances when the public have stopped short of taking to the streets to protest against these inconsistencies.
The lopsided agreement in favour of the 11 Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in the country is a case in point. It is a well-known fact that these entities are being heavily subsidised by the government to a tune of about RM2 billion annually.
Support of these IPPs, to put it bluntly, is at the expense of PETRONAS, Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Malaysian consumers. One of the entities has a Return on Investment (ROI) of almost 48 per cent when a ROI of 12 per cent is considered justifiable. The inequity is staggering, to say the least. But that is not what I am about to highlight in this editorial of mine.
It was one of those hazy weekends when you have little to do but to remain glued to the television watching some rough and tumble games coming to life on the giant LED screen. I was no exception. The object of my interest that fateful day was a final between two top-notch rugby clubs Down Under.
It was almost 7pm. The sky was heavily overcast punctuated by lightning and thunder. One lightning flash came crashing from the sky and exploded in front of my house. The TV screen and the lights went off. The next-door neighbour’s house, however, was not affected and so were the rest in the vicinity.
My damage control drills came into effect. I never thought of calling TNB for assistance. The first person that came to mind was the contractor who fixed the electric fittings in my house. I called him and he was in front of my gate almost an hour later.
The lightning bolt had spiked two of the three external fuses on my 3-phase electrical board. Only one was functioning. He had them replaced and supply was restored soon after. Before he left he told me that TNB is equipped for such an emergency. The number to call is TNB Careline 15454.
It did not bother me much until I received my bill. The amount was well below my anticipated figure. I decided to call the number to check. A recorded voice on the other end answered. After the onerous, “Press 1 for Bahasa Malaysia, Press 2 for English” followed by another number for default reporting, I was directed to an operator who answered in crisp and clear English. I told her of my problem. She said someone would return my call soon. Sure enough someone did call. It was the local TNB response team.
True to form, the van with the team stopped by my house an hour after I made the call to TNB Careline. The damaged electric meter with the wrong reading was duly replaced.
I was stumped. Honestly, I did not expect such a miracle to happen, not in this trying moment. I thought the national power supplier would take a lifetime to react. How wrong could I have been?
So the next time something goes wrong with your power supply, don’t hesitate to call 15454. You can even text a message or send an email. That is customer service for you. I feel Ipoh City Council should learn a thing or two from TNB.