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CEB wrangle gets even murkier



By Ifham Nizam

Plans were afoot by the Power Ministry and the Ceylon Electricity Board top management to give the green light to a higher cost joint venture between China and Pakistan to install a mooring system to unload LNG at Kerawalapitiya, sources close to the Senior Engineers’ Association said.

A senior engineer told the Sunday Island that the CEB was likely to approve it though it was yet under evaluation. “There are strong recommendations from the Power Ministry,” an official said.

When contacted, Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) President Saumya Kumarawadu told the Sunday Island that the project should proceed.

He said that it would be taken up at the Cabinet shortly and by the Attorney General’s Department. “I don’t see anything wrong with it as it comes under negotiations and Denmark is also one of the partners,” he added.

He also said that the project comes as a PPA, thus, coming with an investment. “We must go for the three LNG Plants -1,500MW before going to renewable energy,” Kumarawadu said.

A senior engineer attached to the newly launched Senior Engineers’ Association said: “This is the biggest tender fraud in the country, if it is awarded. The value of the contract for Chinese and Pakistan JV is around USD 1.3 billion for 10 years.”

In comparison, he claimed that the cost to CEB from “the New Fortress proposal is USD 250 million for five years.”

Senior Engineers’ Association Officials pointed out that the cost to CEB from the above Pakistan, China JV and pipeline by the same Chinese would cost three USD 3 per One Million Terminal Units (MMBTU). That was double the price of the New Fortress offer of USD 1.4.

CEB tender condition was to install the mooring system for Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) at a given location with 15 -16 metres depth in the sea.

Many experienced companies who bought the tender documents informed CEB that the location was not suitable for the FSRU terminal and wanted to have the option to change to a stable position.

However, CEB before the bid very clearly said the location of the mooring point cannot be changed.

Therefore, the senior electrical engineer said only two bids were offered and the Technical Evaluation Committee rejected one bid and qualified the JV from China and Pakistan.

The Sunday Island reliably understands that this JV wanted to change the location and TEC considering the possibility.

Since it’s practically impossible to have a mooring system as per CEB location, JV is now offering a small discount to CEB. The earlier price was USD 2.33 /MMBtu and now offered to reduce to USD 2.0/ MMBTU.

“This is a major deviation and violation of tender conditions and procurement procedure.

 While refusing to accept a change, it is now trying to accommodate the request of a preferred party,” he added.

Another engineer said that it will jeopardize the entire procurement process of the country. “It’s unfair for experienced bidders who didn’t want to offer impractical solutions.”

The Sunday Island learns that the Pakistan joint venture partner has little experience and the Chinese partner has none.

Engineers say foreign company’s solution and approach was to remove others and to pressure CEB.

Power Ministry Spokesman Sulakshana Jayawardena said that the project was still under evaluation.

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“Foreign bond holders more important to govt. than hard-pressed people”



SJB slams GR’s policy speech

The main opposition SJB says that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Speech delivered in Parliament on Jan 18 failed to provide solutions to the crises faced by the country.

Addressing a press briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo on Thursday, SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne said that the crises with regard to economic management and governance had gone beyond the control of the government subjecting the masses to severe hardships without essential goods and services.

Wickremaratne said that  there had been no increase in the value of  GDP supporting the domestic and foreign borrowings by this government during the last two years.

He accused the government of giving priority to paying off debts of foreign cronies while  starving the people without essential foods inclusive of fuel for electricity generation.

“People who could not afford to basic necessities despite having cash in hand due to the shortage of dollars and foreign exchange now had to stay in the dark for several hours a day without electricity due to lack of fuel as the govt has not been able to maintain a supply chain properly. But the government, having crossed its wires, gives priority to repaying the loan to its cronies while mounting pressure on its citizens,” Wickremaratne said.

“President Rajapaksa’s Throne Speech did not provide answers to any of  the current problems  facing the country. Although the country faced two major problems, there was no answer to either of them in the President’s policy statement.

“First, rising commodity prices push up inflation increasing  vegetable prices. Secondly, the import of essential commodities has come to a complete standstill due to the foreign exchange deficit. There is a shortage not only for  food and fuel but also for  medicines for the people.”

He said only 25% of the country’s essential medicines are produced locally and the rest are imported. There is also a shortage of essential medicines due to lack of dollars for imports.

At a time when the people are under so much of  pressure, the government is  boasting of servicing   international sovereign bonds on time. People need to be told the secret of why foreign debtors are more important to the government than the citizens of the country, Wickremaratne said.

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COVID-19 on the rise again; 800+ new cases a second day running



(Economynext) New COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Sri Lanka, with health authorities detecting over 800 new infections on Thursday (20) for a second consecutive day.

With the 827 new cases, total cases in the country have gone up to 599,363, official data showed.

Around 15,279 patients are currently receiving treatment in hospital or at home.

With 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hour period, the island nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 15,243.

Health authorities warned that the sector could face challenges managing new patients if daily cases continue to surge.

Officials are also concerned about an apparent hesitance for the booster dose of the vaccine that was largely absent in the initial rollout.

“We have provided the opportunity to get the booster countrywide. But because the fatality rate is now low people may think taking it is no longer necessary,” State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said speaking to journalists on Friday (21).

“Sri Lanka will go back to the previous state with people not taking the booster dose,” he warned.

The booster rate is very low compared to Sri Lanka’s otherwise impressive vaccination numbers, said Jayasumana.

“Only 4.8 million have taken the booster so far, and only 26,796 came forward yesterday to get it.

“With the increase of patients, even though the fatality rate is low, it can be overwhelming for the health sector if patient numbers in hospital wards and ICUs go up.”

Sri Lanka has so far vaccinated 16.3 with the first dose while 13.8 have received both doses.

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Prevention, cooperation, mutual assistance essential to counter connected nature of terrorists in South Asia – Army Chief



Prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential to counter the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in the South Asian region, said Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva on Thursday, emphasising on the need of law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies.”

“In the legitimate government efforts to fight terrorism or organised crimes, in this regard, a possible South Asian regional treaty could promote counter-terrorism and anti-crime measures by promoting institutional structures and decision-making processes to promote cooperation, coordination, shared expertise and common legal approaches,” said Silva while virtually addressing the “Countering use of Crypto Currencies to Finance Terrorism” event on Thursday.

“Due to the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in our region, prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential,” he added.

The General also said that there are avenues for collaboration by establishing information exchange at customs, imposing immigration barriers and commonly agreeing on the regulation of transporting and stockpiling of weapons and drugs, dangerous goods or potential warlike equipment.

Emphasising that mutual assistance can be enhanced by extending measures for collecting evidence of suspects, exchange of wanted personnel and etc, Silva said that enhancing the capacities of regional countries to handle terrorism and criminals would depend extensively on the training of law enforcement agencies.

“Apart from training for military personnel, of a particular country, it is also essential to carry out joint training for various armed forces of the South Asian region. Conducting counter-terrorism operations at a regional scale would also require regional funding. It is understood that funding counter-terrorism campaigns in recent times has become quite expensive due to the sophistication of insurgence,” Silva added.

The General also said that “this is where we need cooperation as very experience armies, who have long been engaging in counter-terrorism operations, we have specialities, therefore we can share each other’s specialities to counter each other’s imitations.”

“Law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies and principles in the regional countries feel enhanced the compatibility between the countries in fighting transnational crimes and terrorism,” he added. (ANI)

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