Wed, 03 Sep 2003

City water campany sued in class-action lawsuit

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta Tap Water Consumers' Community (Komparta) demanded on Tuesday that the private partners of city-run tap water company PD PAM Jaya pay Rp 1 billion (US$117,647) in damages for their failure to provide proper services to their customers.

The claim against PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ) and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) was submitted as part of a class action filed by Komparta in the Central Jakarta District Court. Komparta says it represents water consumers in all of Jakarta's five municipalities.

TPJ's and Palyja's defense lawyers, respectively from the Amir Syamsuddin & Partners and Luhut Pangaribuan & Partners law offices, requested a week to study the claim before responding to it.

Presiding Judge Andriani Nurdin adjourned the case until Sept. 10.

Komparta's lawyer Amstrong Sembiring told The Jakarta Post that the lawsuit was being brought on behalf of some 800 residents in five municipalities who were dissatisfied with TPJ's and Palyja's services.

Amstrong said that most of the complaints concerned water quality and pressure. For example, the water was turbid and smelled of chlorine, while most of the time water pressure was abysmal.

"Since the foreign partners took over the operation five years ago, there have been no improvements in the service," he said.

Amstrong emphasized that the material damages were not the main objective. What Komparta really wanted was that the administration be forced to reconsider its partnership arrangements with the foreign companies.

If the first case went in favor of the plaintiffs, then Komparta would file another suit demanding that the partnership deals be reconsidered, he said.

Currently, Komparta has also filed a lawsuit demanding that the administration and the city council be ordered to cancel the 40 percent increase in water charges that was imposed on April 1.

Amstrong said that if the courts ruled in favor of Komparta in these two actions, the rulings would serve as precedents that could be relied upon by residents in suing other public service institutions providing such essentials as electricity, liquid petroleum gas and telephone services, as well as toll road and parking lot operators.