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Fate of JPS exclusive licence could be known next week

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 06, 2012    

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THE action challenging the legality of the Jamaica Public Service's (JPS's) exclusive all-island licence will now reconvene next week Wednesday in the Supreme Court.

The matter was scheduled to be recalled yesterday for submissions to be made on a 1913 case, which the claimants are confident will prove that the all-island licence issued to the JPS is illegal. However, the matter could not go on as government lawyers asked for additional time to prepare a response.

According to Hugh Wildman, the attorney for the claimants, the House of Lords ruling in London Electric Supply Corporation Ltd v Westminster Electric Supply Corporation Ltd is firm that there can be no monopolisation of the energy sector in keeping with the Electric Lighting Act.

Yesterday, Wildman told the Jamaica Observer that in light of the ruling, the respondents — the energy minister, JPS and the Office of Utilities Regulation — would have no choice but to accept that the 20-year licence issued in 2001 and renewed in 2007 is illegal.

"The case is really conclusive on the matter. You can't go any higher than the House of Lords. When the House of Lords makes a pronouncement, no one can overturn it...," Wildman said.

"The issue must be one of settlement. That is what they should be trying to do. There is no question in my mind. ...There is no room for manoeuvre," he added.

Last week Wednesday, Justice Bryan Sykes reserved judgement in the case until September but was forced to recall the matter after Wildman discovered the 1913 ruling last weekend.

Opposition Senator Dennis Meadows, Betty Ann Blaine and Cyrus Rousseau of the group Citizens United for the Reduction of Electricity (CURE) are challenging the legality of the licence, claiming that Section 3 of the Electric Lighting Act of 1890 stipulates that electricity is to be provided by several different entities and in specified areas of the island.

The claimants are seeking to have the court declare the 20-year licence, which is preventing prospective players from entering the energy market, null and void.

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