Thu, 13 Apr 2000

Team established to supervise fuel sale

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): The South Sulawesi legislature set up on Wednesday a joint team to supervise the distribution of fuel in the province in response to illegal sales of blended gasoline, kerosene and diesel.

The establishment of the team, consisting of officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, prosecutors, police officers, journalists, students and public representatives, was announced at the legislature's Commission B for economic affairs hearing with local police and state oil and gas producer Pertamina.

Officials from a consumer foundation, local administration and the Provincial Prosecutor's Office also attended the meeting.

Commission chairman Ambas Syam said the joint team would decide on legal actions for those involved in the fraud.

The meeting also disclosed that fuel fraud was a well- established practice in the province.

"But Pertamina has been ignorant to the fact that it exists everywhere, not only in Makassar," said Ambas.

Meanwhile, a local consumer advocacy group is preparing a class action against Pertamina over the case.

South Sulawesi Consumer Foundation chairman Zohra Andi Baso told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that he was waiting to handle complaints from consumers who might have been duped into buying the blend of gasoline, kerosene and diesel.

"We are ready if anybody officially asks us for legal aid," Zohra said. He added the foundation could represent them if they reported the case to the police and sought legal counsel.

Three fuel delivery companies and several gas stations were allegedly involved in the distribution of the blended fuel.

Ambas said on Saturday that PT Ira Sitaba Utama, PT Nurul Hasanah, PT Karya Manunggal and several gas station owners were questioned by the police over the alleged fraud.

He said the fraud could be part of a nationwide scandal, as the fuel was reportedly found in Bone, Luwu and Mamuju regencies.

Site investigations found that the Bakaru hydropower plant, which supplies power to areas in South and Southeast Sulawesi, used the blended fuel, reports said.

The number of vehicles with engine problems was increasing, Zohra said. He said a Toyota repair shop on Jl. Urip Sumohardjo had to fix three cars with engine failure due to the blended fuel. (27/sur)