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CEBEU broken to meet changing times, Senior Engineers’ Association formed

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by Ifham Nizam

Consistent streamlined long term policy framework is needed by Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to provide electricity supply to its customers at an affordable price, the newly launched Senior Engineers Association Spokesman Eng. Nandika Pathirage said

Pathirage, the ex-President of the powerful Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) told The Island that numbers didn’t matter but what mattered were initiatives for the betterment of the country. He stressed that though they were small in number they had the authority to take strong actions.

“We believe that CEB should be modernised and adopt changes in the energy market to resolve the upcoming energy crisis which is our responsibility as we have the capacity to face such a crisis,” he said

Sri Lanka’s current energy policy focuses more on adding renewable energy to the national grid. Therefore, establishment of a consistent, efficient framework within CEB is more crucial at this point of time while focusing on obtaining maximum support of the knowledgeable and skillful engineers of CEB to implement the national policy, he added.

Pathirage said: “CEB should carry forward with short term, mid-term and long term reforms to address efficiency of the operational framework of CEB and to improve financial position of CEB. Use of modern technology is inevitable to move forward to face the Energy Crisis and adopt a national policy framework”.

Senior Electrical Engineers Union of CEB, President Dr. H. M. Wijekoon Banda, said that a proposal would be made shortly to modernize CEB, to expedite the construction of low cost power plants, to avoid high cost emergency power purchases and to keep electricity tariffs stable for the next five years.

“A major obstacle in implementation of CEB’s plans is limited time available for experienced senior electrical engineers who hold senior positions to continue in the same positions. This becomes a huge hurdle in continuity of such plans and such plans can become inactive in the long run,” Dr. Banda said.

He explained that CEB lost the services of senior electrical engineers with experience in specialized fields when they reached 60 years of age. Although the retirement age for specialists in the medical field was 65 years, veteran engineers were required to retire at the age of 60. “Due to the compulsory retirement requirement, senior electrical engineers will have limited time to work in the posts such as General Manager, Additional General Managers and Deputy General Managers which come under top management categories of the Board. This situation adversely affects the accountability and performance of such positions,” Dr. Banda elaborated.

To continue implementing the long-term generation, transmission and distribution schemes of CEB and service to the customers, a decision should be made quickly to obtain the services of Senior Electrical Engineers for a sufficient period of time, he said adding that it should be noted that Ceylon Electricity Board Act too had provisions for those changes.

Dr. Banda said CEB was having a strength of more than 800 Engineers.  The Senior Engineers Association of CEB also indicated that increasing the retirement age to 61 as an interim solution was prudent at present as Senior Engineers possessed required skills and knowledge to accommodate the national policy and make it a reality.

The CEB Senior Engineers pointed out that the above recommendation of extending retirement age to 61 could be reviewed after one year of implementation to arrive at a permanent solution which could be adopted.

They also said it would minimize the knowledge gap of young engineers as the time would give them the chance to groom young engineers to face upcoming energy challenges. In line with this, the Senior Engineers Association recommends that modernising of organizational structure should be adopted to promote young engineers on experience and seniority.

They stressed that the purchase of emergency power to overcome the power shortage should no longer be a solution. The Association is confident that the above proposals will have a positive impact on maximising the contribution of senior and young engineers to achieve the target of generating 70 percent of renewable energy by 2030 in line with the government policy. The detailed proposal recommended by the Senior Electrical Engineers Union to solve the power crisis is due to be released at the end of November.



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SL defenceless, warn experts

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New COVID variants

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Due to the lax testing at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), there is a strong possibility that any new variant of COVID-19 entering the country, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday commenting on the detection of a new coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa.

Even a travel ban would be useless unless the country enhances its testing and surveillance capacities, Kumudesh said.

Kumudesh said that PCR tests were not conducted on passengers on arrival and that it was likely that even those not fully vaccinated were entering the country. “Gene sequencing in respect of those infected with COVID inside the country was at a minimal level, and therefore, there is no way we can find out whether a new variant has entered the country until it is too late.

“There are two state-of-the-art labs in the BIA but no tests are done there. We are not ready, at all. Several nations are imposing travel bans on travellers from South Africa and the region. Perhaps, we should follow suit. However, the fact that we don’t test those coming in means that even a travel ban might be useless,” he said.

Kumudesh added that the number of PCR tests conducted had dropped to such a low level that reagents used in some labs for PCR testing are now nearing the expiry dates. The attitude of health officials at the airport is such that everyone operates on the basis that testing of passengers is not important.

Executive Director of the Institute for Health Policy (IHP), Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya yesterday said the detection of the new South African variant was potentially very bad news for all countries, and certainly for Sri Lanka.

“We still don’t have sufficient data on this, but I am very worried. It was only discovered a few days ago, but the scanty evidence strongly indicates that this new variant is driving a rapid increase in infections in S Africa. Only 100 cases have been confirmed officially, but reports indicate it may be 90% of new cases since Wed in Johannusburg,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said that his best guess was that three out of four South Africans had been infected by COVID during the pandemic. Thus, a large number of them had acquired natural immunity. Moreover, 25% of others have been vaccinated.

“So this rapid spread despite a lot of immunity is very disturbing. This really points to this new variant—B1.1.529—being both more infectious and also significantly immune resistant. Something that also matches with its particular mutations,” he said.

Dr. Rannan-Eliya said he was not surprised at the emergence of the new variant because contrary to many experts who drink the kool-aid, there is no scientific basis to think SARS-CoV-2 had matured in its evolution. It might still have a lot of potential to evolve greater immune evasion and virulence, and that we should act on that basis.

“Second, because most of the world is following the misguided strategy of just accepting the virus (hey you – USA, UK, Sri Lanka…), the virus has plenty of chances to keep on mutating more because the truth is more of the virus is circulating than ever before. Third, despite a lot of nonsense about how T-cell immunity is going to protect us, there’s really no evidence that either infection or current vaccines and boosters will ever give us long-lasting immunity. We simply don’t know.”

Countries like South Africa, Peru, etc., who had such high levels of infection that much of their population was infected more than once, still continue to suffer new waves of infection.

“So this is bad news for all of us humans on planet earth, but very definitely for us in Sri Lanka. Why? Because based on how our medical establishment and govt authorities think, we will be slow or refuse to put the necessary border controls in to prevent this entering. And when it does enter-which is inevitable if this variant spreads globally–we will be slow to detect its entry, we will refuse to sound the alarm, and we will do everything but actually attempt to stop it. That’s been our track record, so why would it change? Worth noting that if this starts a new wave in Southern Africa, it’s just three to four months after their third wave. So just as immunity starts waning appreciably from natural infection (or vaccines). That gives us a strong hint of what our future holds unless we end this pandemic.”

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Navy deploys lagoon craft at Kurinchankerny until construction of new bridge

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Residents waiting for the boat

Sri Lanka Navy began providing transport facilities at the Kurinchankerny lagoon following the recent tragedy that claimed several lives. This service will continue until the construction of a new bridge at Kurinchankerny, Kinniya in Trincomalee is completed.

This initiative was set in motion following the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne. The Navy deployed a Lagoon Craft, capable of carrying 25 passengers safely at a time from Thursday (25) under the supervision of the Eastern Naval Command. The lagoon craft will be in service from 7.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. and from 12.00 noon to 2.00 p.m. each day. Further, the Navy erected a temporary jetty to allow passengers to board the vessel safely.

A schoolgirl on her way to the ferry
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UN Assistant Secretary General during talks with President pledges to work closely with Sri Lanka

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The United Nations will always work closely with Sri Lanka, said Khaled Khiari, UN Assistant Secretary General for Political, Peacebuilding and Peace Operations. Khiari made these remarks when he met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday (25).

UN Assistant Secretary General Khiari is visiting Sri Lanka as a follow-up to the bilateral meeting with the President and the UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres held in September this year on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. Khiari conveyed the best wishes of UN Secretary-General Guterres to President Rajapaksa and said that the UN is willing to engage in a constructive and positive engagement with Sri Lanka.

Expressing satisfaction over the President’s affection and interest in the environment, the Assistant Secretary General appreciated Sri Lanka’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The President explained that steps are being taken to plant 100,000 mangroves with the assistance of the Navy and actions are being taken to prevent climate change through environmental conservation programmes.

President Rajapaksa expressed gratitude to the UN agencies and donors that have assisted Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to make the vaccination drive successful and in facing other challenges in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The President pointed out that the government’s development programme implemented in the North and East after the end of the war in 2009 had brought about rapid development. The President recalled his invitation made while participating in the UN General Assembly to the diaspora to work together with all communities after visiting Sri Lanka. The President said that he hoped that the invitation would be met with positive initiatives.

The two sides exchanged views on unity and relations between communities. An environment where all communities can live freely has been made available in Sri Lanka. The President pointed out that the Minister of Justice is from the Muslim community, the Attorney General is from the Tamil community and many of those holding other key posts are of different communities. President Rajapaksa said the government has undertaken a great task in building unity among the communities and therefore, no one should have any doubt in this regard.

Both sides were of the view that education was fundamental to unity among the communities. President Rajapaksa said that the process by which South Africa has been able to end apartheid and move forward will be studied and the lessons that can be learned from it and what can be implemented will be looked into. The President also expressed hope that the United Nations will provide assistance in this regard.

Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundera and Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, and Political Officer at the UN Peace Operations Department’s Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department Chiaki Ota were also present.

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