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CEB engineers pump diesel into their vehicles from Kelanitissa stores

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No queue travail for the lucky few

By Ifham Nizam

While many other state-sector professionals including medical specialists and other health workers are spending days and nights in fuel queues, engineers of the Ceylon Electricity Board are not feeling the pinch thanks to the government giving priority to supplying fuel for power generation, a senior Power and Energy Ministry official said.

Despite everyone else undergoing untold hardships trying to find fuel, CEB engineers have been happily tapping into the large diesel stocks at the Kelanitissa power plant to top up their fuel tanks, we reliably learn.

An official said: “Ironically, CEB has no rupees to pay CPC even when the Treasury scrapes the bottom of the barrel to find the dollars to pay for fuel imports. Therefore, CEB is forced to get short-term loans from commercial banks at exorbitant interest rates, generally above 30%, to pay for its fuel and monthly salaries and generous allowances of its employees.”

Several CEB employees contacted by The Island including veteran trade unionist Ranjan Jayalal were of the view that it is criminal for the CEB to use diesel supplied by the government for power generation to pump fuel into engineers’ vehicles.

Such supplies are often made at the cost of depriving other critical needs such as public transport, school vans, and the haulage fleet bringing daily essentials like fish and vegetables to urban centers. But some of the power generation fuel is used to maintain the lifestyle of a set of privileged state employees.According to these CEB employees, long lines of CEB vehicles used by engineers have become a common sight at the Kelanitissa power station. These vehicles often carry barrels and other containers to take additional diesel supplies.

These employees complain that although diesel is issued from the Kelanitissa storage under the guise of supplying the essential needs of maintenance and breakdown vehicles, only a small fraction of that fuel is allocated to CEB’s field vehicles.The engineers in the meantime have an almost unrestricted supply of diesel for their official and private travel (sometimes including daily travel of their spouses), despite the people agonizing in long fuel queues all over the country.

In fact, the CEB has been advising its customers that the time taken to attend to breakdown complaints will be longer because its maintenance vehicles cannot get sufficient fuel.

CEB engineers are allowed to commute between their homes and workplaces, subject to a maximum of 20 km each way plus additional private travel allowance ranging from 600-900 kilometers per month at board expense. But some engineers travel to Colombo daily from places like Wennappuwa, Negombo, Panadura, and even more distant places like Ratnapura. Apparently, the fuel shortage has not deterred these engineers from economizing on fuel use despite the current crisis thanks to diesel stocks at Kelanitissa intended for power generation.

It is understood that when the CEB General Manager recently announced that the private mileage allowance of engineers would be reduced by 50%, engineers protested vehemently. Many CEB employees question why this decision had angered the engineers so much when there is no fuel even to manage CEB’s day-to-day maintenance work in most areas.

It is also learnt that some CEB engineers who had been allocated petrol vehicles had quickly switched to diesel because of the ready availability of the fuel from the Kelanitissa storage facility.

Its employees complain that even the engineers attached to project work in the Project Division continue to clock the same mileage as before, although the project work has come to a standstill because of the foreign exchange shortage and the resulting shortage of essential materials like steel, cement as well as CEB’s inability to open LCs for essential imports of new equipment.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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