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CEB shows total mismanagement



This is in relation to the article by Dr. Chandre Dharmawardana, “Sri Lanka’s power supply, blackouts, and how to prevent them” published in the Island Newspaper.

I am an electrical engineer, who has spent the last 30 years in research and development in telecommunication systems and system reliability, which includes software reliability. Today, as a consultant, I am guiding the engineers and scientists of the Canadian Utilities in trying to understand a previously unknown condition affecting the grid networks. Canadian utility networks are highly sophisticated, complex networks, protected by many strategic and tactical networking designs, to account for not only the inevitable faults, but also the ability to withstand weather from -50C to +50 C, including rain, ice and snow storms.

Over the last five to six years, the utilities have found the prevalence of large magnitude, 7th and 9th harmonics, which has been contributing to several unforseen outages in the Canadian networks. This phenomenon has been observed in Europe and in the USA. The grid is primarily designed for large 3rd harmonic fault tolerance. Experiments and tests over the last five years seem to suggest that the switching power supplies, wind and solar power generation equipment, and the large plethora of small mobile telephone and laptop charging equipment might be the source of these large magnitude harmonics. Yet proper fault diagnosis and containment had prevented outright failures, even in the presence of fault conditions previously not encountered or understood. That is good system effectiveness.

The point however, is that rapid problem sectionalization, fault containment (from rapid fault propagation), rapid problem restoration and preventive maintenance are at the heart of designing and maintaining mission critical systems, such as the utility network in Sri Lanka. The system complexity is needed in order to ensure rapid problem sectionalization and containment. As Dr. Dharmawardana suggests, it is inconceivable that the actions of an individual of the CEB is to be blamed for the catastrophic outages the country had experienced. The competency of the individual engineers at the CEB must be just as good as the competency of the medical, public health, the military and the police personnel, who were primarily responsible for containing and controlling the transmission of the Covid virus in Sri Lanka; comparatively better way than most other countries in the world. Having worked in the UK, Canada and in Europe, it is my informed opinion that the engineers at the CEB are no less competent than any other engineer in the world.

Hence, the engineers in Sri Lanka must be competent in performing Failure Mode Criticality Analysis (FMECA) in the mission critical systems such as the electricity grid network. It is so fundamental, that any graduate engineer is taught that in mission critical systems, one must account for all faults down to at least the third degree of failures, and design the system to be fault tolerant to that level. There are no such systems as ‘fail safe’ systems; failures are a part of any complex system, which includes all human induced failures.

The system should be designed to be robust enough to withstand at least three levels of faults before catastrophic failures precipitate. Telephonic systems are designed for no more than one catastrophic failure in 60 years. However, if the operators have no discipline, and are so incompetent, that they allow the faults to propagate to the second, third and the fourth levels, without containment, the catastrophic outages are inevitable. It is really “stupid’ to suggest that just one operator pulling one circuit breaker brought down the entire network. This is inconceivable in a mission critical system. As we have seen, Boeing and the FCC, not performing the FMECA diligently and independently, partly accounted for the recent fatal aircraft accidents. Testing software systems against requirements, either specified, or deduced from FMECA, is an absolute necessity in mission critical systems. In order to effect cost savings, sometimes the systems are only tested against the specified requirements, and not against the deduced requirements from failure analysis. This is not the norm, but it happens elsewhere in the world.

In the case of the CEB, the only conceivable possibility is total mismanagement. Lack of effective preventive maintenance, systemic or rampant organization issues that prevent the effective utilization of the collective knowledge base that exists within the CEB; these are refactors at the heart of these outages. As a trained engineer, it is my opinion that it is the lack of process and operational integrity that caused the outages. These elemental issues must be addressed as a matter of priority, in order to eliminate such outages in the future. No amount of artificial intelligence and smart system designs can eliminate the need for effective and smart operational practices.

LAYANANDA ALLES, Eng.Montreal, Canada

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Youth battle against drugs needed



Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy

If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.

They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.

Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.

Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.

Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.


Barbara Seneviratne

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Reduce number of vehicles on our roads



Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.

Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.

Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?

Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.

In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.

He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.





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A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy





As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.

In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.

The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.

Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.

Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.

Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.

The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.

1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:

a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.

b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.

c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.

d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.

e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members

f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.

g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.

h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.

i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.

j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.

All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.

2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.

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