ANGRY residents in the hotbed community of Payne Avenue in South West St Andrew yesterday staged a protest against Thursday's disconnection of their electricity by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).
The community is one of the areas in which the light and power company has installed its Residential Advanced Metering Infrastructure system. The system is generally installed in areas that have high rates of electricity theft and allows for disconnection to be carried out remotely.
Yesterday, the residents complained that since the installation of the system, they have been receiving "outrageous" bills -- way above what they can afford.
"The light company treating us unfairly. How could they do that to us?" asked 65-year-old Suzette Smith.
She and others threatened to take their protest to the busier and more visible Spanish Town Road until they are paid some attention.
"How can this happen?" interjected Doreen Walters.
"The JPS officials just stayed in their office and just disconnected our electricity and left us all in darkness. We want a flat rate light bill," she demanded while holding her bill of over $30,000 for others to view.
Meanwhile, Carmen Graham, another resident, said what makes matters worse is the fact that the disconnection happened when schools are about to be reopened. The new school year begins next week.
"How are we going send the children back to school with the electricity disconnected? Have a heart, JPS," she urged.
Jacqueline Walters, a mother of four, shared similar sentiments.
"This cannot happen. Dem jus' stay at dem office and turn off di light on all of us," she quarrelled.
"There are people in the community who paid their bills and still got disconnected," she claimed.
Yesterday, the JPS explained that the disconnection was not a "special operation" as had been suggested by the residents.
"We did not carry out any special operation, necessarily. We have been disconnecting customers who are owing, as we normally do in the normal course of business, and Payne Land customers who owe were disconnected," disclosed Ruthlyn Johnson, corporate communications officer at the light and power company.
Johnson said if there were customers in the community who had their service disconnected despite paying their bills, they should make a report to the JPS.